Lake Mead

A Dream in the Desert

Rating: 72%

The desert on the Arizona – Nevada border may be the last place you think of when some says “boating,” but you’d be missing one of America’s premier water destinations.

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) covers 1.5 million acres — twice the area of the state of Rhode Island — and boasts 550 miles of coastline surrounding approximately 150,000 acres of water with a maximum depth of 465 feet.

Today, 8 to 10 million people visit Lake Mead annually and on any given weekend during the peak summer season there are as many as 5,000 boats on the water. The Boulder Basin, including the Boulder Beach area, is the busiest part of the lake.

While houseboats rentals are something of a Lake Mead tradition for out-of-town visitors, there are boats of all types here and the lake is abuzz everyday with personal water craft (PWC), waterskiers, wakeboarders and even scuba divers. In 1991, Scuba Park, an area dedicated to bubble blowing, was opened along the south side of the quarter-mile causeway to Pyramid Island.

And, of course, many of the boaters on the lake have lines in the water. Game fish, hunted year round, include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, black bullhead catfish, bluegill sunfish, green sunfish, black crappie, striped bass, rainbow trout and walleye.

A few years ago Las Vegas Boat Harbor marina relocated from Las Vegas Bay on the northwest edge of the basin to Hemenway Harbor on the southernmost end. Now just two miles from the park’s main entrance from U.S. 93, the marina is near the Alan Bible Visitor Center, a worthwhile stop. The marina offers slips from 20 to 106 feet and full services.

Lake Mead Marina on Boulder Bay benefited from the fact that for years it was the most accessible to the highway from Las Vegas, half an hour away. It has a restaurant, cocktail lounge and a fully provisioned store, as well as boat rentals.

Callville Bay Resort is 45 minutes east of Las Vegas further east along the basin. Callville Bay is “Houseboat Central” with the largest fleet of rentals on the lake. The marina accommodates 650 vessels and there is also an RV park and campground on site.

Overton Beach Marina, on the Northern Arm of Lake Mead, is located a few miles from the entrance to Valley of Fire State Park. Typically less congested than Boulder Basin, this North-South arm of the lake is no less spectacular. It’s also known for its fishing. The marina has slips, a store and all the usual amenities. Echo Bay Harbor marina, also on the Overton Arm, is one of the most established facilities on the lake. It has a restaurant and its own lodge.

Although it is located on the Arizona side of the lake, Temple Bar should be mentioned in this article. East past the Overton Arm, Temple Bar is remote compared to the marinas. It offers starkly beautiful vistas and access to usually deserted coves and bays. It is full-service, with a small motel, a restaurant and a general store.