Lake Mead exploring - January 2011

I was visiting family and friends in Las Vegas and we decided to get out of the city and drive to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I had no idea it was so close to the city; only 20 minutes or so from the eastern side of the city.

There were 5 adults, one 7-year old and one teacup Yorkie in tow. We got kind of a late start, but ended up seeing some beautiful sights anyway. Here's where we were:

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We stopped at the entrance station on Lake Mead Parkway to talk to the ranger and get some maps. There was a fee to enter the park ($10?) but it was free the day we went. Maybe because it was the MLK holiday weekend.

We decided to try out Las Vegas Bay because it was the closest stop but that ended up being pretty dried up so we continued on Lakeshore Drive to a stop called 33 Hole Scenic Overlook (not sure where it got such a strange name - anyone know?). Here's how it looked:

As you can see, the water level is really low and you can see which area used to be covered with water. That line up on the surrounding rocks gives you a clue as to the normal (previous) water level.

According to this TIME article, this past October the water level sank to its lowest in 75 years. Since Las Vegas gets 90% of its water from Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam relies on the lake this could cause problems for the west in general if it continues to dry up.

We decided to keep driving southeast and got to Boulder Harbor which was closed for boating because of the low water level. We took a stroll on the jetty there before getting back in the car.

(photo by R. Stokes)

Then we drove another mile to Boulder Beach. This was the first time we were close enough to the water to touch it.

American Coot
(Fulica americana)

No swimming today but plenty of shell collecting. We had seen an egret from our walk at Boulder Harbor so I headed towards the jetty to see if I could spot it again. Soon I saw the egret plus a great blue heron.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)
and Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
(click on the photo to get a closer look)

As I was walking over to get a closer look I realized that the area I was walking was for sure once under water. The rocks were encrusted with bivalves of all sorts and the grasses on the land seemed like the kind you'd find in a lake. Pretty strange to see.

Once the sun started to set we headed back towards the city and stopped at an area fittingly called Sunset Point. We'd seen some beautiful colors at Boulder Beach but they just continued to get more remarkable. I love desert lakes!

This was a quick and fun trip - left west Las Vegas around 2 and got back home by 6 - so you have no excuse not to take a trip there next time you visit the City of Sin.

Click here for more of my photos from Lake Mead.