Paddling Hoover Dam and Enjoying Lake Mead – Government Wash Review

After leaving Lake Havasu I headed to Willow Beach for a weekend to meet up with the BHC Adventures group I found on meetup.com for an overnight kayak from Hoover Dam down Black Canyon. Willow Beach was a pretty campground and area, but had no cellular signal, not even phone calls. They do give you a satellite based WiFi code for 1 device but it was minimally functional. If you are just coming to paddle over night, you could just leave your rig parked in the parking lot without securing a camping spot (P.S. If you are there you can use the dump station at no additional cost). It’s a bit of a steep curvy drive to the campground so take it slow!

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Tent camping area is up to the left.

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Great little rock wall behind my camp.

From there we had an outfitter drop us off at Hoover Dam (you have to go through an outfitter to have access to this drop site). We all had to have our driver licenses for security and a NV AIS sticker for our boats. The outfitter dropped us off right below the dam.

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From the dam, within the first 3 miles there are many areas to stop at and explore. You have Gold Strike Canyon, with warm hot springs and beautiful colors, Boy Scout Canyon, Lone Palm, a few other hidden areas and of course Arizona Hot Springs.

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All of this water is warm!

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Goldstrike Canyon has awesome colors. My phone doesn’t do it justice, but definitely a must see hike.

There is a lot of thermal activity around and the park service makes available sand bags to allow people to help maintain the hot spring pools. As a group we enjoyed stopping often to hike these canyons and enjoy the hot springs. We originally were going to camp overnight at Arizona hot Springs, but it was quite crowded, so we paddled over, picked up 2 backpackers who were meeting us and paddled them back over, to a little hidden spot with a nice hot spring pool and a pretty camp area. The next day we finished the final miles down the canyon back to our cars. This is a wonderful paddle and I would recommend to anyone in the area. If you don’t want to pay an outfitter, you could paddle up river from Willow Beach. The current isn’t very strong but it would be a workout.

I later went back and hiked Gold Strike Canyon from the top down. If you are short, or have poor upper body strength, this is a difficult hike. I meet both criteria and found myself turning back after a point. We had been warned at the trail head by a local fire volunteer that rescue for an individual a few days back had taken over 6 hours, so please, be safe not sorry. I took this to note and when I reached a point where I couldn’t figure out how to get down without help or injury and knew my strength might be an issue getting back out, I turned around.

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A little perspective on the climbing!

I then headed over to Lake Mead and stayed at Government Wash. I really enjoyed this area because the views were great, the area was quiet, they had dumpsters, a free area to dump and fill water at the nearby campgrounds, plenty of local hikes and close by cities with good groceries. I feel this area is versatile enough that I might want to winter here for several months next year, rather than southern Arizona. There is a 15 day limit but we didn’t see this being enforced. I had good AT&T signal here and okay Verizon. We had an easy short drive or walk, from our campsite to access the water, which was refreshing to cool off in! If you like to sail there is a marina with a restaurant and a sailing meetup that does some events in the area.

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View from my campsite at Government Wash Road on Lake Mead.

While in the area we visited Valley of Fire State park, paddled Lake Mead and enjoyed some local hikes.

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Petroglyphs in Valley of Fire State Park.

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An entire family of sheep just hanging out by the side of the road in Valley of Fire.

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Valley of Fire visitor center has a short little viewpoint out the back side.

Local area tips:

Fill up with water and dump for free at Las Vegas Bay. There is a closed ranger station there with a filtered water fountain for filling your drinking water bottles. You can also access the camp ground from there to dump your tanks and fill your fresh water tanks. This is also the trail head to the White Owl Canyon hike that I took. Henderson, NV is only about 20 minutes away and of course Las Vegas isn’t too far either. I recommend heading over to Red Rock while there if you’ve never been and enjoying a walk down the strip!

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The Las Vegas Bay Marina is closed but there is a water fountain at the Ranger station when you first go in and a campground (follow signs) in the area. Also is the trail head for a really cool hike in White Owl canyon!

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