Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Park Overview
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) offers a wealth of things to do and places to go year-round. Its huge lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen while its desert rewards hikers, wildlife photographers, and roadside sightseers. Three of America's four desert ecosystems--the Mojave, the Great Basin, and the Sonoran Deserts--meet in Lake Mead NRA. As a result, this seemingly barren area contains a surprising variety of plants and animals, some of which may be found nowhere else in the world.
For boaters a minimum of one good and serviceable U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for each person on board. PFD's must fit the intended user. All persons 12 years or younger must wear a PFD while on board a vessel. All boats 16 feet or over must have a USCG-approved type IV (throwable) PFD on board in addition to PFD¿s for each individual.


For PWCs a minimum of one USCG approved PFD must be worn by each person on board. All boats must be numbered according to the rules and regulations established by the states. Numbers must be displayed properly on boat hull and valid registration papers must be carried on the vessel.

Motorboats and waterskiing are permitted, provided that the operators adhere to Lake Mead's regulations:


Lights authorized by Nevada and Arizona state law must be added of the vessel is operated between sunset and sunrise.


All vessels carrying, as fuel, any volatile liquid having a flash point of 110°F or less, and all vessels with any closed or covered compartments, must have a fire extinguisher immediately available. Boats of open construction under 26 feet in length are not required to have an extinguisher, but it is recommended. PWCs must have a serviceable B-I USCG fire extinguisher on board.


PWCs must have a lanyard-type cut-off switch that is attached to the operator.Safe Boating Course Effective January 1, 2003, all operators of vessels powered by a motor over 15 horsepower on interstate waters and were born on or after January 1, 1983, must possess a certificate of completion for a boater education course or proficiency exam.


All boating accidents must be reported to the National Park Service within 24 hours.



A person operating a vessel towing another person on water skis, a surfboard, an inflatable device or any similar device must be at least 14 years of age or at least 12 years of age if a passenger in the vessel is 21 years of age or older and is in a position to supervise the operator.


In addition to the operator of the vessel, there must be one person observing the person being towed. In Nevada, the observer must be at least 12 years old (10 years of age if a 21 year-old is aboard the boat).


The observer shall continuously observe the person being towed. and shall immediately display so as to be visible from every direction, an international orange flag of at least 12 inches in height by 12 inches in width when the person being towed is getting ready to be towed and has a rope or line extended to him, or ceases to be towed and is in the water awaiting pickup by the vessel.


Water skiers shall wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.


Skiing is permitted only between sunrise and sunset (daylight hours). No person may operate a vessel towing a person or persons on water skis, a surfboard or similar device in any areas so posted or within 500 feet of harbor entrances, swimming beaches and mooring areas, or within 100 feet of any person swimming, fishing or diving.


A person shall not operate a vessel towing a person on water skis, a surfboard, an inflatable device or any similar device, unless the manufacturer's safe loading capacity for the vessel is three or more persons; operator, observer and person being towed.

Campground fees are $10 per site ($5.00 with Golden Age and Golden Access passes) and are payable immediately upon occupying a campsite. Fees are posted at the entrance to the campground. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no reservations. Check-out time is noon.


Group campsites are located at the Boulder Campground. Camping fees are posted at the campground kiosk. Reservations are required. Please call (702) 293-8505, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm.

The group campground is for tent camping only with limited vehicle parking. There are restrooms, tables, grills, and some shade.


Maximum eight persons and two motorized vehicles (e.g., one camping unit and a towed vehicle) per site. Four motorcycles may occupy a site. Motor vehicles must be parked in designated parking areas only and may not be driven onto the dirt or across irrigation ditches.

MAXIMUM STAY:Maximum stay within the recreation area is limited to 90 days within any consecutive 12-month period.

QUIET HOURS:Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Please do not create or sustain unreasonable noise, including generators, during those hours.


Park concessioners provide RV sites with full hookups (electric, water and sewage) at Lake Mead RV Village (Boulder Beach), Callville Bay, Echo Bay, Overton Beach, Cottonwood Cove, Temple Bar, and Katherine Landing. Reservations may be made by contacting the concessioners.


Numerous areas can be reached by boat, car, backpacking, or horseback. Primitive camping, accessible by boat along the shoreline is permitted anywhere outside of developed areas or areas marked NO CAMPING. Camping is limited to a total of 90 days within any consecutive 12 month period. Unless otherwise specified, camping is limited to 15 days per visit at a specific backcountry area. After 15 days, campers must either move to another backcountry area or developed campground, or leave the park. When camping in the backcountry, always tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you plan to return. Include a description of your vehicle and your group.


Do not leave fires unattended. Driftwood may be collected from below the high water line only and used in campfires. Firewood may also be purchased at concession stores. Ground fires are permitted only in metal fire rings provided in some of the sites.


Vehicle camping is permitted only in designated areas in the backcountry. Vehicles of all kinds, including four-wheel drives, motorcycles, and bicycles, must stay on designated roads. Off-road tire tracks last for years in this fragile desert. There is no off-road travel in the park. All motorized vehicles and their drivers must be properly licensed for highway travel. Obtain copies of the park's approved road maps at any ranger station.


Backpack or horseback camping is allowed throughout the park and along the lake shoreline except in developed areas, restricted or ecologically-sensitive areas, within 500 feet of any paved road or within 100 feet of any spring or watering device.

History of the Area
Human history here extends back more than 10,000 years ago to man's arrival in the Southwest. The first people that can be positively identified in this region were known as the Basketmakers. They were probably forerunners of the Pueblo Indians who were farmers and traders.

Tule Springs, a few miles north of Las Vegas provides the earliest evidence of man in the Lake Mead area. Here archeologists found fire hearths and stone tools inassociation with Mammoth bones and other Pleistocene fauna. The evidence indicates that these early people were part of a widespread hunting culture that was dependent upon Mammoth, Bison, and other big game.They were probably nomadic and moved in small bands or family groups.

Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the hearths at Tule Springs, excavated by the Southwest Museum, yielded dates of over 23,800 years ago. Because of the possible contamination of the charcoal before the radiocarbon test, many archeologists feel that these dates are too early. Later excavations under better controls yielded the following sequence of dates for Tule Springs:

40,000+ years ago - Pleistocene fauna found in an old stream channel. Presence of Man not established.

30,000-15,000 years ago - a shallow lake existed near Tule Springs.

13,000-11,000 years ago - probable evidence of Man with extinct Pleistocene fauna.

11,000 years ago - definite evidence of Man.

So, at present, we can say that Man might have been in the Lake Mead area more than 20,000 years ago, probably here about 13,000 years ago, and definitely here by 11,000 years ago.

The recorded history of the area began in 1826, when Jedediah Smith passed through on his first Southwest Expedition in search of beaver. Other early explorers were John C. Fremont, Lt. Edward Beale, Lt. Joseph C. Ives, and Major John Wesley Powell.

The explorers were followed by colonization and exploitation. Mormon farm settlements and roaring mining camps sprang up along the rivers and in the mountains. Lake Mead was named in honor of Dr. Elwood Mead. As Commissioner of Reclamation from 1924 - 1936, he drafted new specifications for a giant project that would dam the Colorado River, impound the world's (at that time) largest artificial lake and provide flood control, irrigation supply and power generation. That project was Boulder Dam. We know it by a later name change as Hoover Dam.

In 1935, Hoover Dam was completed and Lake Mead formed, covering such historic Mormon sites as Callville, Rioville, and St. Thomas.

To fish within the states of Nevada or Arizona, you must carry with you a valid fishing license. If your license is for Arizona, and you plan to fish from a boat or other craft on Lakes Mead and Mohave, or on the shoreline of Nevada, then you must have a "use stamp" from Nevada (and vice-versa).

A trout stamp is required in addition to any other use stamps if you intend to catch and keep trout. You may purchase licenses from the concessioner at the marinas or at local bait and tackle shops.

Largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill are found in both Lakes Mead and Mohave. Rainbow trout can be found in Lake Mohave. Fishermen go for the big trout at Willow Beach, while Cottonwood Cove and Katherine offer great bass and trout fishing.

Lake Mead has become famous for its striped bass with an occasional catch weighing in at over 40 pounds. Fishing for striped and largemouth bass is good throughout Lake Mead with crappie, blue gill, green sunfish, and catfish being more prevalent in the upper Overton Arm of the lake.


1) Each person may use only one combination of hook, line and rod at one time.

2) No more than three baited hooks or fly hooks or two lures or plugs may be used at any one time or on a single line.

3) The fishing line must be closely attended.


1) A person may fish with two poles with the purchase of a stamp.

2) Each line may not contain more than two hooks or two lures or two artificial flies.

-Please clean your catch at the fish cleaning stations located at most of the marinas.-Both lakes are open to 24-hour fishing year round.

JUVENILE FISHING1) No license is required on Lakes Mead or Mohave for persons under the age of 14 in Nevada and Arizona.

Several protected species of fish are found in the Colorado River System. Two of these, the razorback sucker and bonytail chub, may be found in the lakes. If these fish are caught, they should be returned to the water. Please report the catch to the National Park Service Resource Management office at (702) 293-8950.


1) There is no fishing within the posted boundaries of state or federal hatcheries.

2) There is no fishing within those areas immediately above and below Hoover Dam.

3) There is no fishing within areas designated as harbors.


Although most visitors are attracted to Lake Mead National Recreation Area because of Lakes Mead and Mohave, more than 87% of the park protects a vast area of the eastern Mojave Desert. Perhaps the best way to explore this diverse ecosystem is on foot, traveling across open expanses of rock formations that contain all the colors of the rainbow. Here, canyons and washes abound, offering a challenge to even the most experienced hiker.

The best season for hiking is November through March when temperatures are cooler. Hiking during the day time in the summer months is not recommended because temperatures can reach 120 degrees F in the shade. Ranger guided hikes are offered year round. Free backcountry road maps and hiking information handouts for recommended hikes may be obtained at the Alan Bible Visitor Center located at the junction of US Hwy 93 and Lakeshore Scenic Drive, and at Ranger Stations.

Safety Tips:

Hiking in the desert can be an enjoyable experience. It can also be a hazardous adventure if you travel unprepared. Never hike alone, and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry plenty of water; at least ½ gallon of water per person. Drink often!

Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or red skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion. Treatment includes moving the victim to a cool shaded area and giving him water to drink. If heat exhaustion progresses, the body temperature continues to rise and the victim may suffer from heat stroke, a serious condition.

Know your limits. Hiking in the desert often means traveling over rough, steep terrain with frequent elevation changes.

Try to pick a route that best suits your abilities. Distances are often deceiving. Be sure to check the weather forecast before departure. Sudden storms can cause local flashflooding. Seek high ground if thunderstorms threaten and be prepared to take cover from lightning.

Minimum Impact Hiking:

Many desert soils are fragile and take a long time to recover if disturbed. Darker surfaces that crumble easily indicate cryptogamic soils. Here mosses, lichens, and bacteria bind the soil surface, forming a crust that serves to prevent wind and water erosion. Take special care to avoid these areas.

Gypsum soils are often marked by lightcolored barren areas and are an ideal habitat for the endangered bear paw poppy and the sunray, one of the most impressive members of the sunflower family. Walk gently here!

Canyons and washes accessible from the lakeshores often contain a surprising diversity of plants. Spring wildflowers are most abundant during April and May.

Desert springs support a unique community of plants and animals. These springs are often the only source of water for many miles. Be careful not to contaminate them with trash and other human waste.

Because the park is a protected area, rockhounding and collecting plants or animals is prohibited.

The National Recreation Area contains a wealth of cultural resources, including petroglyphs carved on the rocks many hundreds of years ago by early Indian inhabitants. Although the meaning of these rock drawings are the subject of much debate, they are an irreplaceable key to the past. If you see anyone defacing a petroglyph or damaging an archeological site, please report it to a National Park Service ranger.

Help protect the desert and the plants by cleaning up your trash, treading lightly wherever you explore, and taking only memories of the park when you leave.


Arizona Hot Springs, Railroad Hiking Trail, River Mountain Loop Trail, Northshore Hikes, Katherine Hikes, and Grapevine Canyon Trail.

Nature Programs
Lake Mead National Recreation Area has a well established environmental education program. We work closely with teachers to use current educational methods in our presentations and activities that enhance the classroom experience of the student.

Activities are appropriate for the developmental level of the student and incorporate methods that encourage hands-on experience and inquiry. During the 2002/2003 school year 14,872 students in the school districts of 3 states participated in Field and Classroom Programs.

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