A Weekend on Lake Mead

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A few weeks ago Joe and I packed up the truck and drove to Lake Mead to meet up with our friends Kimi and Dave. I had never been to Lake Mead despite it being the perfect distance for a long weekend trip. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and was created by the preeminent Hoover Dam. Without the Hoover Dam the high density mass of humanity smack dab in the desert, known as Las Vegas, would not exits. Perhaps it would all be for the better if the Hoover Dam was never constructed. Dams, despite the benefits to humanity they may provide, are environmental catastrophes. I’ve always had misgivings about recreating on western reservoirs. The names Mead, Havasu, and Powell always made me sad. I know we rely on this water to support western cities and agriculture but what was lost in the processes should make even the staunchest supporter of the Bureau of Reclamation shed a tear. The gagging and binding of the Colorado River will always stand out as the greatest tragedy of the arid west. I won’t go further into the damming of the west but there are many great books and documentaries that cover this issue and I highly recommend checking them out.

Despite my misgivings about reservoirs the implausibly of a large lake in the middle of the desert is what makes Lake Mead so stunning. I almost felt guilty as I paddled across the still water of the early morning. The best sunrises are always found in the desert and as the sky was deposited on a canvas of glassy water it sandwiched the earth in a blue embrace. I was surrounded by flocks of birds and could hear the jumping of fish. There is beauty everywhere, even in the things that can make us sad.

We spent the morning paddling, fishing and exploring the coast line. The once smooth as silk water started to get choppy as a rain storm rolled in. We returned to shore, wet and content, piled into the truck and headed to the marina for lunch and ice cream. Because ice cream on a cold rainy day is the obvious choice. That night while falling asleep in the truck we could gauge the ferocity of the wind by the regularity that the waves hit the shore.

The next day we explored the 4×4 trails that surround the recreation area, finding petroglyphs and wildlife at every turn. While on a hike down to the water we could not help but feel like we were being watched. While deep in a canyon it can start to feel like you are on display to anything or anyone perch above. On our hike out we finally saw our voyeur. Watching us from the rim of the canyon was a large big horn sheep, likely waiting for us to take off so he could access the water below. We returned to camp to spend more time in the water. Although it was cloudy the water was a balmy 72 degrees, the perfect temperature for floating in its inky black depths.

Long weekends are my favorite time to explore new areas close to home. Anything within a 5 or 6 hour drive is fair game. I will visit Lake Mead again, maybe even rent a party boat and explore one of the many inlets that are only accessible by water craft. I also hear there are hot springs nearby which we never got a chance to find. There is so much to see in this world, and much of it is right outside our front door.

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