Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is spread out over Mohave County in northwestern Arizona and Clark County in southeastern Nevada. The recreation area follows the Colorado river corridor from the westernmost limit of the Grand Canyon National Park to north of Laughlin, Nevada and Bullhead, Arizona. With over 6.3 million recreational visits in 2012, Lake Mead NRA was the 5th most visited national park in the United States.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead and the smaller Lake Mohave are both reservoirs on the Colorado River formed by the Hoover Dam and Davis Dam respectively. While Lake Mead and its immediate surroundings were protected as a recreation area as early as 1936 when the reservoirs had just formed, it would take until 1964 before the area was expanded to include Lake Mohave as well.

The Lake Mead NRA is famous for its fishing, boating, swimming, hiking trails and excellent views. Tours of the Hoover Dam can be arranged through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Short facts about the Lake Mead National Recreation Area

  • There are nearly 1,350 recorded archeological sites within the recreation area and over 122,000 museum objects and archives. There are also 23 historic structures, eight National Register Properties an two Traditional Cultural Properties.
  • Approximately 900 plants species and roughly 500 animal species has been identified within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and this includes two dozen rare or threatened species.
  • Examples of fish that is present in both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave are Rainbow trout, Channel Catfish, Bluegill, Crappie, Largemouth Bass and Stripes Bass.

Wilderness areas

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area contains nine officially designated wilderness areas that are protected under the National Wilderness Preservation System. All of these areas around found within the state of Nevada.

One of the most famous of these nine designated wilderness areas is the Spirit Mountain, homeland of the Quechan tribe. According to the tribes traditional belief system, all life began on the Spirit Mountain. This is an impressive mountain that is visible from Bullhead City in Arizona as well as from Laughlin in Nevada.

The nine wilderness areas

  • Black Canyon WildernessLake Mead National Recreation Area 2
  • Bridge Canyon Wilderness
  • Eldorado Wilderness
  • Ireteba Peaks Wilderness
  • Jimbilnan Wilderness
  • Muddy Mountains Wilderness
  • Nellis Wash Wilderness
  • Pinto Valley Wilderness
  • Spirit Mountain Wilderness

Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the United States

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States in maximum water capacity. Boating, water skiing, swimming and fishing are all popular activities here, and during sunny days the sandy beaches and rocky cliffs around the lake attracts sun bathers.

Lake Mead has four marinas:

  • Las Vegas Boat Harbor is operated by the Gripentogs
  • Lake Mead Marina (Hemenway Harbor, Nevada) is operated by the Gripentogs
  • Callville Bay (Nevada) is operated by Forver Resorts
  • Temple Bar (Arizona) is operated by Forver Resorts

Getting to Lake Mead

Lake Mead is found on the Colorado River southeast of the city of Las Vegas. The distance between the famous “The Strip” and the lake is approximately 40 km. Lake Mead is partly in Nevada and partly in Arizona.

Lake Mead has nine main access points for visitors.

West side: Three access roads from Las Vegas metropolitan area.

Northwestern side: Access from Interstate 15 through Valley of Fire State Park and the Moapa River Indian Reservation (you will reach the Overon Arm of Lake Mead)

Short facts about Lake Mead

  • Lake Mead is 180 km long when the reservoir is full.
  • Lake Mead has over 1,200 km of shoreline.
  • When filled to capacity, the reservoir holds roughly 35 km3 of water and is 532 meters deep at its deepest point.
  • The reservoir has not been filled to full capacity since 1983. This is due to a combination of drought and increased water demand.
  • Lake Mead is named after Elwood Mead (1858 – 1936). He was the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1924 to 1936, i.e. during the planning and construction of the Boulder Canyon Project that formed the dam and the lake.
  • When the water level in Lake Mead drops low, it is possible to spot the ruins of St. Thomas. The town of St. Thomas was submerged as a result of the construction of the Hoover Dam.
  • Lake Mead is divided into several bodies. The largest body (the one closes to the Hooever Dam) is called Boulder Basin. A narrow channel connects Boulder Basin to Virgin Basin. The northernmost part of Virgin Basin is connected to Overton Arm.

    The Virgin River and Muddy River both empty into Overon Arm.

    Eastwards, you will find Temple Basin, which is connected to Gregg Basin via the Virgin Canyon.