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#130007 - 03/03/10 07:54 PM Black Canyon
Trailrunner Offline

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
.....of the Colorado, not the Gunnison.

I want to paddle from Willow Beach to the hot springs just below Hoover Dam. Yes that's upstream. I'm much better on my legs than in a kayak but I'm not a weak paddler. I have a 16' boat. I'm in no hurry and I'll have 2 days if needed to cover the 10 mile distance.

How bad is the current? Does it vary with outflow from the dam? Local outfitters offer day trips going a few miles upstream from Willow beach so that sounds encouraging. I just think it would be nice to hear from someone who has actually done it.

Plenty of outfitters offer a one way trip downstream from the dam to Willow Beach but I want to do it my way!!!!
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

#132636 - 04/24/10 07:22 PM Re: Black Canyon [Re: Trailrunner]
Trailrunner Offline

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Well, I don't usually answer my own posts but I had a great time in Black Canyon so here's a little trip report:

First a little backround. Black Canyon is located immediately below Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. It runs over 12 miles to a small marina called Willow Beach and from there it gradually widens into Lake Mojave. Its waters, originating from near the bottom of Hoover Dam, run cold and almost crystal clear. So clear that the river bottom is usually visible. The current is usually mild, but its speed, along with the water level, can vary greatly depending on the massive valves of Hoover Dam, which respond to the water and power demands of the people it serves.

I launched from Willow Beach on a warm, lazy weekday afternoon. Well, it was only lazy if you were a tourist like me. The marina was full of onshore construction activity. The new campground, store and visitor's center will hopefully open by July. No sign of a recession here!!!

So I loaded up the boat with fresh food, fresh water, camping gear, and all sorts of goodies I wouldn't dream of carrying in a backpack. I even tossed in a not-so-light beach chair. Kayak camping has its advantages. I decided to leave the ice chest in the car since this was only an overnighter and it wasn't terribly hot. The beer would cool very well in Black Canyon's cold water that evening.

I set off, paddle in hand, upstream from the calm water of the launch ramp and into the teeth of the current. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that outfitters offered day trips from Willow Beach upstream a few miles. I was going more than a few miles though. To my relief it wasn't too bad at all and I was able to average almost 2.5MPH going "uphill".

After a few miles I reached the first attraction.

Emerald Cave was barely bigger than my 16' boat but it was a nice place to give my poor latissimus dorsi a rest and sip some water before I resumed my battle with the current and the now increasing headwind.

Another hour of paddling found me at this small beach around 4PM. I decided to kick back for a while and enjoy the silence and the solitude. The air was still warm and the only sound I heard was the occasional flutter from a pair of ducks who had been stalking me, undoubtedly used to humans who would spare them a morsel of food. I was in heaven!!!!

After 8 miles or so I decided to put in for the night. But not before the Colorado offered one more little challenge. Ringbolt Rapids was named after the hardware that steamships used to winch themselves up the canyon against the current. Back in the days before the great dams were built, steamers plied these waters from the Gulf of California to supply a little town called Las Vegas. In places where the current overwhelmed their engines, cables attached from shore to winches on the boat's decks pulled them upstream. Some of those historic ringbolts still decorate the canyon walls today. Anyway, paddling up the "rapids" was not terribly difficult but I was glad to get through them.

I slept well that night with only the sound of the rushing water to keep me company. The only drama was around 8PM when apparently someone needed either more power or more water, because the great valves of Hoover Dam had been dilated, the water rose, and much to my dismay the little beach I was calling home for the night began to vanish under the current!!! Fortunately my tent was pitched just above the high water mark........

I woke up to calm air and a greatly reduced water level/current. I decided to pack up and try to reach the dam while the going was good. The first few miles were calm and peaceful.

But as I paddled on, the current became much more hostile. Eventually I came within sight of the nearly complete O'Callaghan-Tillman bridge, which is just downstream from the dam, my goal since 2PM the previous day.

Just one more bend in the river and I would be there!!!! But my arms were aching and progress was now in inches. In fact I was barely making any headway at all. No doubt the dam keeper saw me coming and ordered the the great valves opened full bore for his personal entertainment!!!! It was a matter of simple physics. The current was stronger than my maximum sustainable forward thrust. And unlike the steamships of yore I had no winch or ringbolts to help me. And then it hit me. I wasn't going to make it. Not this time. Close but no cigar. I came up one bend and a few hundred yards short. Bummer.

But then I realized something. It's not about the goal, it's the journey. I was just happy to be alive, healthy and able to experience this beautiful place. So it wasn't too painful to accept defeat, kick the rudder over and head downstream, back to my car, my job and my mortgage. Black Canyon had really helped to put life in perspective.

If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

#133499 - 05/11/10 01:37 AM Re: Black Canyon [Re: Trailrunner]
kevonionia Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 1322
Loc: Dallas, TX

Finally saw this post and pix. Beautiful shots. Great trip. What a view of that new bridge. They were just starting it when we were heading back to LV from the GC several years ago. Great post.
- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)

#133863 - 05/17/10 09:23 PM Re: Black Canyon [Re: kevonionia]
gonegonzo Offline

Registered: 04/19/10
Posts: 6
Congrats Trailrunner . I only hope to be as motivated as you seem to be . I don't know your gae but you remind me of myself when I was in my late 30's early 40's . At 60 yrs old I look back fondly on my " Glory Days " . I wish you many more productive years in the sport .


#133980 - 05/19/10 09:26 PM Re: Black Canyon [Re: gonegonzo]
Trailrunner Offline

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Much thanks to both of you. Gonzo, I'm "only" 52 but I'm doing things now that I didn't dream of when I was 22. This trip was just one item on my bucket list, which seems to grow longer every year as trips are crossed off but even more are added!!!

I can't wait for retirement!!!
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.


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