If you are looking for an adventure that is only 30 minutes from Las Vegas, then kayaking the Black Canyon Water Trail is for you. This is something that I have wanted to do since the first time I heard about it. Finally, I decided that I couldn't wait any longer!
I gathered a group of girlfriends and set a date. I researched some of the different options. They varied from self-guided kayak tours to motored group rafts and all in between. We settled on the self-guided kayak tour for the freedom to make our own adventure. We used http://www.kayaklasvegas.com/ . They seemed to offer the most for the lowest price. Rentals included kayak, paddle, life vest, rope, map and round trip shuttle service. A one day rental was $65 plus $22 for the permit, so $87 total per person.
We scheduled our adventure for Monday, June 6th. We needed to be at the pick up location, Hoover Dam Lodge, at 6:00 AM for a 7:00 AM launch. I carpooled with a friend and we arrived right on time. Our shuttle arrived a few minutes later. We listened to a safety briefing and additional information while we waited to leave. At 6:45 AM, we loaded up and headed to our drop off location.
The launch location is at the foot of the Hoover Dam. We had 15 minutes to unload, use the bathroom, get any last minute instructions and push off. I have a lot of experience with canoeing, rafting and easy kayaking so I felt right at home on the water.
The map they gave us was two-sided. On one side was a map with points of interest and their location along the route. The other side listed a description of each point. Since we were doing the self guided tour, we would be able to stop at any of the points as long as we were at our pick up point, Willow Beach, by 4:00 PM. So we needed to go 12 miles in 9 hours.
The first stop we made was at Sauna Cave or at least we think it was. It didn't really seem to be a cave but more of a hot spring coming out of the rocks. As we were approaching, I placed my hand in the water. The main part of the river was really cold, but the water coming out of the wall was about 130 degrees. You could feel a difference as you approached the outlet. It was really cool.
Our second stop was at Gold Strike Canyon. It offered miles of hiking, scrambling, hot springs and waterfalls. We all got out at this stop to explore. We found a nice little pool of warm water. We all took turns sitting in it.
Next we stopped at Lone Palm Canyon. It has a nice waterfall right next to the river. It is named after a Mexican Fan Palm that is rumored to be the first palm in the canyon. All the water entering the canyon, that we stopped at, was warm since they are being fed by hot springs.
We then headed back onto the river. It was beautiful! The sun was still hidden behind the cliffs. I could have stayed there all day. It was so peaceful. We even saw a desert big horn sheep grazing on the edge of the cliffs.
Next, we saw The Ear as we made our way to Boyscout Canyon. It's a rain cave that resembles a human ear. You could hear water dropping from somewhere deep within the structure.
Boyscout Canyon has numerous hot springs, narrow slot canyons and lots of hiking. We decided to stop here for some hiking and exploring. All of us went back to the first waterfall but only half of us continued beyond that. The other girls went back to the kayaks for snacks and relaxation. As we continued into the canyon, there were several places that we had to climb up waterfalls and squeeze through slot canyons. It was really fun! At one waterfall, there was a rope in place to help the ascent and descent. We didn't go all the way to the back of the canyon because we didn't want to make our friends wait too long and the water started to get too hot to walk in as we got closer to it origin.
After we left Boyscout Canyon, we continued making our way down the river. The sun was finally hitting the river fully. The temperature was perfect and we had little to no wind. On our way to our next stop, we pulled over to explore Sea Cave. It was a natural cave that we could paddle into. I loved going into the caves!
Next, we stopped at Arizona Hot Springs Beach. This is where we decided to stop for lunch as well as do some hiking and explore the area. There were also two pit toilets at this beach. I ate my lunch while we were walking to the Arizona Hot Springs. When we left the beach there was no water to follow but as we made our way back into the canyon, a little stream formed. We walked along it to a waterfall. In order to get to the pools, we had to climb a ladder. It was an old, metal ladder that had bowed rungs. I was a little concerned about it's ability to support me but I pushed that thought out of my mind and started climbing. Once at the top, there was a large man-made pool. There were sandbags pilled up to create a wall. I walked up to see the next two pools but had to stop there because the water became too hot. We then made our way back to our boats. The sun was in full force now so we were pretty warm and decided to take a dip in the river before we started kayaking again.
The instructions say to leave this beach by 11:30 AM (11:00 if windy). We left at 12:00 PM. We were a little concerned about making it to out meeting spot by pick up so we decided to not stop again until Emerald Cave. We were in a more open section of the river and the wind had started to pick up. It became more difficult to paddle. We made a few adjustments to boat assignments and powered through.
Emerald Cave was my favorite! Once you were inside the cave, the water below you shined a vibrant green. The ceiling of the cave sparkled with the reflection of the water. It was absolutely beautiful!
The final thing we saw before we arrived at Willow Beach was the Catwalk and Cablecars. It's an elevated walkway used by the gauger to traverse the turbulent waters before the dam was built. No thanks.
We ended up getting to Willow Beach in plenty of time. We actually had about 30 minutes to relax so I took a little plunge into the river to cool off. Then we went to the general store and picked up some ice cream. We all sat around the table and shared two pints. It was perfect!
The shuttle arrived and loaded our kayaks while we were eating. We then all crammed into the van for our ride back to the Hoover Dam Lodge. Once we arrived, we took one last group picture before we went our separate ways. I had such a great time with these girls!
This trip was the perfect way to kick-off summer. It was so much fun! If you're not afraid of a little work, lots of sun, and a touch of adventure, then this trip is a must. You won't be disappointed!