Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Black Canyon, Mojave Lake

After a walk across Hoover dam, I made my way to Willow beach in Black Canyon. This is the stretch of Mojave Lake below the Hoover dam. Willow beach is about 11 miles below the dam. I arrived early evening and found the day use area to myself, except for one lone fisherman. We exchanged greetings, and I went about cooking dinner. I checked on him later to see if he was catching anything, and from the chat I determined that I could probably stay put here overnight, as long as I was discreet. I asked if he minded company, which he did not, so I brought out my chair and sat and talked with John late into the night. My fishing luck rubbed off and he never had a bite : '} He warned me that it would be a madhouse early in the morning, as they would be planting trout. I was nearly asleep around midnight when 4 or 5 carloads of whooping and hollering folks rolled up. Pretty durn early for fishermen to start arriving! When I thought I heard a gunshot in the near distance, I decided it was time to move, so I non-chalanty got everything set to move and slid around front trying not to make contact with the partiers, and took off. I was a bit worried about John, but these folks seemed more like partiers than trouble makers, and he looked as if he could take care of himself. (In the morning he explained that these would be Lake Havasu Spring Breakers, and it was common for them to show up, party half the night and then leave. I moved to the launch area and had a peaceful night.
I watched the plant in the morning, and the ensuing chaos. I'd rather have gotten on the water previous, but there was just too much commotion for me to have safely launched, so I had to wait an hour or so after the plant (which they did right out of the paddlecraft launch) before I got on the water. It was pretty funny to watch. Half dozen guys are casting right into the stream of fish being dumped, others butting in front of each other on the water for a better cast. One yahoo was trying to wade fish with two poles! The fish evidently said the heck with all this and moved into the channel, and very few were caught. Within the hour, most of the fishermen/women/kids had packed up and left, moved towards the hatchery or put their tackle away to go on to other things. The fish won this round :)
I paddled upstream keeping an eye out for a hotsprings someone had clued me in on, and also the possibility of bighorn sheep. In two paddles along here I never did find those hotsprings, but today I saw 8 bighorns :). I only went up a couple of miles, stopping to look at the site of an old gauging station, before the wind was really starting to pick up. It was blowing through the canyon in an upriver fashion of course. John had warned me about this being typical and noted that whitecaps develop fairly often. Well, he was right about that. This is no fair, paddle against the current up, and against the wind back...
When I paddled here again, a week and a half or so later, I went an additional mile and a half up and through a "narrows" of the canyon. Everyone coming downstream was telling me about all of the neat stuff a few miles further up, but then, they had been launched at the foot of the dam by outfitters, and so they had rode the current down. I knew I did not have the stamina for a 10 or 12 mile paddle against current and wind. I had looked into the outfitters as a possibility before the second paddle, but they make it darn difficult. The only way to launch near the dam is through an outfitter, who are under federal permit. None would ferry in a private vessel, and the minimum party requirements excluded me. My only hope was to hook up with another solo party to team up in a canoe on a weekend run. That did not happen. I could have done a 2 night/3 day paddle up and back from Willow beach, but by this time, I was more interested in getting to Utah then figuring out how to spend more time down here. Oh well. If you are ever heading to Vegas and have additional time on your hands, you might want to consider an overnighter from the dam with an outfitter. The first several miles are white water and canyon is supposedly splended in that area. They set up camp at Arizona hotsprings, which is essentially a waterfall fed pool just up from the beach. What I could find on it looked really appealing. I had intended to hike in from the road the day of my second paddle, but after suffering a minor bout of heat exaustion, I thought better of it. It is a 5.5 mile round trip hike and over 1200' of elevation change, and I am told all through soft sand...
There are a number of jeep roads on this stretch of hwy, on the arizona side of the dam. Plenty of mines, coves and washes to explore. I drove a couple of the more solid roads, and spent a night at a cove fairly close to the dam on the Lake Mead side. Very nice spot. Two other roads I was on got so soft so quick that I nearly gut stuck, so I had to turn around before getting to the good stuff. The constant above average heat, sun, and sometimes gale force winds made bicycing or hiking in further less than attractive. This is one reason I am in a hurry to get to Utah and higher country. Or maybe I should just pick up a sunbrero :)

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