Canoeing & Kayaking

Two people on canoe, large canyon in background

Discover New Wonders

Paddling within Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a wonderful way to experience the park. Grab your kayak, canoe or paddleboard, and paddle along the smooth, calm waters of Lake Mead or Lake Mohave surrounded by colorful mountains. Or experience a peaceful float down the Black Canyon National Water Trail along the Colorado River. If you don't have your own paddlecraft, that's no problem. The marinas offer rentals, and more than a dozen companies offer guided tours. Grab a paddle and discover the park's many hidden coves.


Life Jackets

People who use paddlecraft, including canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards, are required to carry a life jacket on board for all occupants. Children 13 and under must wear their life jacket while the paddlecraft is underway.

All occupants of hand-propelled craft operating between Hoover Dam and River Mile 43 (Chalk Cliffs) on Lake Mohave are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when underway. The waterway changes quickly from flat, calm water to a strong river current with rapids. Water temperatures are cold (in the low 50sF/10sC) year-round. Vessel traffic can be congested in narrow canyons.

Boating Regulations
Even though you are paddling, you are still a boater subject to many of the same requirements. Please visit the Nevada Department of Wildlife or Arizona Game & Fish Department websites before launching.

AIS Decal
Both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave contain invasive quagga mussels. To help prevent their spread, the Nevada Department of Wildlife requires watercraft, including canoes and kayaks, to have an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal. Paddleboards are exempt from the decal requirement.

To enter the park, you will need a pass. Visit our Fees page for details. Paddlecraft are not subject to a launch fee, unless you are launching with an outfitter at the base of the Hoover Dam.
Paddlecrafts are considered vessels. They may be launched and used anywhere a boat is allowed. They can also be launched at shorelines, except for the designated swim beaches at Boulder Beach, Cottonwood Cove or Katherine Beach. Once you are paddling any craft on the water, you become subject to the same boating rules as every other kind of vessel.

On Lake Mead, Canoe/Kayak Beach, located in the Hemenway Harbor area, allows you to park right on the water's edge and explore the Boulder Basin for the day.

On Lake Mohave, Willow Beach is a paddler's paradise. It rests in the center of the Black Canyon National Water Trail. If you paddle up river, you can visit coves, hot springs and Emerald Cave. On Sundays and Mondays the water from Willow Beach to the north is managed as a primitive zone. Personal watercrafts and vessels with motors are prohibited on these days, so people can experience paddling in a natural setting.

From Willow Beach, you can also go south to see unique rock formations and caves. The Eldorado and Placer Cove take outs are about 15 miles down river.

Launching at Hoover Dam is an exclusive experience provided by a limited number of permitted outfitters. It's quite something to sit on the water looking up at the 726-foot-tall Hoover Dam, knowing it's holding back more than 3 trillion gallons of water.

If you already own a paddlecraft, you may hire an outfitter to provide livery service to the launch site, which includes a narrated bus ride into the Hoover Dam Security Zone. If you don't own a paddlecraft, you can sign up for an all-inclusive guided trip down river - all equipment is provided.

To obtain a paddlecraft launch permit to launch directly below Hoover Dam, contact one of the authorized paddlecraft outfitters listed on our Black Canyon Water Trail page.

The closest take-out is at Willow Beach, which is about 10 miles down river. You may stop and camp along the way. Please visit our backcountry camping page for rules and regulations.

Please note, you will not be able to see the Hoover Dam if you paddle up river from Willow Beach, because it's within the security zone. It can only be viewed via a permitted launch.

Most of the marinas on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave rent a variety of paddlecraft, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, along with life jackets by the hour, day or week. For full details and to make a reservation, contact the marinas directly.
There are more than a dozen paddlecraft businesses who have licenses to lead professional guided paddlecraft tours on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Tour options are available for everyone from beginners to experienced paddlers. They range from half-day trips to overnight camping excursions.

BLACK CANYON National Water Trail

In 2014, the Secretary of the Interior designated a 30-mile stretch of the Colorado River from the Hoover Dam to Eldorado Canyon as a National Water Trail, making it the first in the Southwest and the first to flow through a desert. You can access the water trail through a guided tour at the base of the Hoover Dam, from Willow Beach, Arizona, or near an old mining town in Eldorado Canyon, Nevada.

As you travel the 30-mile trail, you’ll find beaches, caves, coves, hot springs, wilderness and solitude. Desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife are often seen on the cliffs along the river. Historic structures associated with the construction of Hoover Dam can also be viewed.

More about Black Canyon Water Trail


Last updated: May 9, 2022

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