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Admission to Lake Mead free during holiday weekend

Lake Mead National Recreation Area invites area residents to enjoy its trails, water and amenities, especially during the Presidents Day weekend when entry is free.

“This is the perfect time of year to hike,” said Christie Vanover, public affairs officer for the recreation area. “This is the time to enjoy hiking and the wilderness areas inside the park. The water is too cold for swimming, but you could rent a boat.”

Many people many not realize 87 percent of the 1.5 million acre recreational area is land, according to Vanover.

She said the park has nine designated wilderness areas. The designation is not intended to prevent people from visiting, but rather to preserve the land.

“We invite people to visit but to practice the Leave No Trace principles,” Vanover said.

Vanover said there also are several trails that can be accessed year-round without paying an entrance fee to the park, including the Historic Railroad and River Mountains Loop trails.

Another “spectacular” trail she recommends is the Redstone Dune Trail. Accessible off Northshore Road, the trail passes through traditional mountain and desert areas but adds pops of red stone.

“It’s like a miniature Valley of the Fire,” she said. “You can walk in wilderness and experience the natural geology of the area.”

There is a parking lot and picnic area near the trail head, making it easily accessible.

The hike through Grapevine Canyon is another park treasure, she said. Accessed off a gravel road from State Route 163 in the southern end of the recreation area, the canyon offers a “spiritual” experience and the opportunity to view petroglyphs. It is in a wilderness area.

A special activity during the holiday weekend is a native seed cleaning event, scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 15. Visitors are invited to help Lake Mead biologists prepare native seeds for restoration projects. They will remove the husks and other debris that could contaminate the seeds while learning about native plants and efforts to restore the natural habitat.

Volunteer participation in this event is limited to 20 people. To register, contact Christopher Pietrafeso at 702-293-8711 or christopher_piestrafeso@nps.gov.

During the free admission days, the regular entrance fee to enter the park is waived. However, fees for camping, lake use and concessions still apply. Those who plan to fish also will need a license.

Vanover recommends that all park visitors stop by the Alan Bible Visitor Center and see the 20-minute film that highlights the “history and fun things to do” at the recreation area.

Additionally, the Western National Parks Association Bookstore at the visitor center will offer a 15 percent discount on items at the store including books, postcards, T-shirts and gifts. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

The National Park Service also offers free admission April 19-20, the opening weekend of National Park Week; Aug. 25, National Park Service’s birthday; Sept. 27, National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Free admission applies to all 133 national parks that have entry fees.

For more information, visit www.nps.gov/lake/index.htm or call the visitor center at 702-293-8990 or the park information desk Monday through Friday at 702-293-8906.

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