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Water trail beckons outdoor enthusiasts

With its steep canyon walls, shimmering river, pocket oases, abundant wildlife and myriad recreational activities, it should come as no surprise to area residents that Black Canyon along the Colorado River has gained national attention.

A 30-mile stretch of the Colorado River through the canyon has been designated a National Water Trail. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement in late June.

Black Canyon Water Trail is the first water trail in the Southwest and the nation’s first in a desert. It stretches from the base of Hoover Dam to Eldorado Canyon, a historic mining area on Lake Mohave.

Members of the Lower Colorado River Water Trail Alliance, an association of public agencies, businesses, nonprofit groups and individuals committed to the protection, enhancement and promotion of water trails within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, spent two years working to obtain the designation.

According to Brina Marcus, a member of the alliance, having the designated water trail allows outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy an “amazing” area. She said the new designation is especially important to Boulder City, which is a gateway to Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

It will draw travelers to the city and Southern Nevada, especially those looking for new adventures.

Guided trips through Black Canyon allow people to experience the water trail in a safe manner, visit the site without destroying the area and prevent new trails from being forged, she said.

As they travel through the quiet stretch, visitors can stop at sandy beaches, coves, active hot springs and colorful caves, among them Emerald Cave.

Although it looks no different on the outside than the other caves along the water trail, the water turns into an iridescent emerald green inside the heart of the cave.

Also visible from the water trail are remnants from the construction of Hoover Dam, including a water gauging station, catwalks scaling the canyon cliffs and carts hanging from cables that span the width the river and were used to get from one side to the other.

Visitors can access the Black Canyon Water Trail through a guided tour at the base of the Hoover Dam or from Willow Beach, Ariz., or near an old mining town in Eldorado Canyon.

Tours from Hoover Dam are provided by a limited number of vendors in Southern Nevada and Northern Arizona. Visitors are escorted to the launch site on a narrated bus ride through a security zone while learning about the engineering needed to build the dam and create Lake Mead. Tours range from float trips to day trips to full exploration tours.

Willow Beach, which serves as a halfway point on the water trail, has amenities such as a launch ramp and full-service marina with watercraft, canoe and kayak rentals; a campground and RV park; and a store and restaurant. Kayak and paddleboards can be rented at Eldorado Canyon.

According to Marcus, Boulder City can serve as a home base for visitors to the water trail and national recreation area.

“It’s another reason to see why Boulder City is so important,” Marcus said.

The National Water Trail System was established in 2012 and there are only 16 nationwide. The designation provides access to recreational opportunities while educating the public about the value of the resource and conservation of the area.

Upon learning about the designation, Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, said the trail offers the opportunity for families to get outside and explore one of the nation’s most beautiful waterways.

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