From Hoover Dam into Lake Mohave
By Gary Mortimer
It was mid-February, the weather had been mild and the decision had been made to paddle on the Colorado River from the Hoover Dam and on through Lake Mohave. After researching the options of getting to the river right below the dam, we hired an outfitter from Boulder City, NV to trailer our fragile canoes (OC-1). The launching area was more appropriate for hard plastic kayaks –not fragile outrigger canoes. It took two of us to carry each canoe packed with camping gear over very slippery rocks and place them into the water. Then we cautiously got into our canoes.The view of the dam from river level was stunning! In addition to the difficult launch, the weather changed. The night before, Las Vegas (20 miles from the Dam) had snow and the day temperature was 35 to 40 degrees – dropping to below freezing at night. This all added to the adventure of heading downstream into Black Canyon. Within 10 minutes of paddling, Mark’s canoe hit a set of Fang Rocks hidden below water level that put a six inch gash on the bottom of his canoe. This was the first time on our continuing adventures that none of us had our repair kits or duct tape with us. We quickly paddled to the nearest beach and inspected the damage. The gash had clearly gone through the carbon fiber hull and the question was, “How much water would it take on?” We set out again a bit more somber than before. After a mile, Mark’s canoe was still floating (a bit lower in the water though), so we continued –we had no alternative.
This first day on the river found us paddling through some pretty fine country. Blue water, red crag’s and blue sky with just of smidgen of north wind to boost us downstream. Every once in a while we stopped to explore hot water seeps and springs. After beaching the canoes on a sandy beach near Ringbolt Rapids/Hot Springs, a short hike found us on a mission of discovery – a short Japanese tourist having his smiling face and naked body photographed whilst immersed in a pool of hot water by a guy with a very long camera lens. We covered about eleven miles and decided that the general store located at Willow Beach Harbor would be a good place to find some duct tape for our wounded canoe. We repaired the canoe, set up our tents, gathered firewood and took a much needed beer break. Just before nightfall, a large flock of Turkey Vultures decided to congregate for the night in a eucalyptus tree located just behind our camp. After a quick dinner of yummy freeze dried delight, we started to notice how the weather had started to change. It was getting cold and we had packed LIGHT! In fact,our sleeping bags were so thin that we could keep an eye on those vultures right through the fabric. Luckily, all three of us had our Surf-Fur parkas! Stuffing them in our sleeping bags in just the right places kept at least those places reasonably warm. All the other places were just plain cold.
Early the next morning, the vultures flew off in search of better pickings, you know, maybe some road kill on Arizona Highway 95. We wished them good hunting and boiled some coffee and mouthwatering freeze dried eggs flavored with lots of healthy salt and some other stuff that looked a little like meat. Well before the sun peeked over the craggy rocks, we were on our way down river. As the day progressed, we spotted some mountain sheep checking us out from their rocky perch above the river. Jumping fish and a few kayakers were about the only othersign of life we saw for about ten miles. As the day progressed, it warmed up a bit, but the clouds started to cover the sky and the weather continued to dip down a bit into the cool side. We spent the day looking forward to another night of freezing our backsides off. As is often the case in paddling rivers in rocky and remote areas, good campsites were a little scarce. Given the iffy weather, we wanted to avoid sleeping on nice sandy beaches at the foot of flash flood channels. After referencing our map and paddling 18 miles of river and lake we found the beach of our dreams! We had it all – soft sand, firewood, all kinds of animal tracks and scat, trees and bushes to hang our wet shoes in and best of all, a set of rusty discarded horseshoes lying in the shallow water. Gary wanted more -so he hiked up on the bluffs and collected a few ancient sea fossils. Fossils are basically rocks and rocks are heavy. The other two Amigos admired the rocks whilst inquiring where he was going to store them on his canoe for the next 12 miles. After building a very cozy fire we boiled some water, ate our treasured freeze dried meals and discussed creative ways in which to keep reasonably warm short of running in place and doing jumping jacks all night long. The sound of howling coyotes serenaded us for much of the night – keeping our minds off of the colder parts of our persons. Another hardy breakfast of coffee and dried eggs found us paddling down the lake at a brisk pace to warm ourselves a bit. The fossil rocks stayed on the beach…
Our third day found us paddling some of the strangest conditions. The air was cold with absolutely no wind. It was still out there. Real still. Not a bird, not a fish – just us wondering if we had woken up in another world. The water of Lake Mohave was like a
sheet of glass. The reflection of the lakeshore was so real that you felt like you could step off of your canoe and walk across it. The clouds in the sky merged with the water of the lake. Right side up – upside down – it all looked the same. We didn’t say much.
Words just don’t work when Mother Nature decides to give you a taste of her wonders. We were stoked!
Later in the day, we finished this section of the trip at Cottonwood Cove Marina. After loading our gear and canoes on the trucks we did what was absolutely necessary. The marina store was open and a cold beer helped create an atmosphere of “we did it” with another piece of the Colorado River behind us.
What is next? Well, we have about 200 miles of river behind us and still have 100 miles of Lake Powell and Lake Mead is waiting for us (if it still has any water in it). So, stand by in breathless anticipation as the Three Amigo’s load up their gear, lash their OC-1 outrigger canoes to our trucks and head out into the Arizona bad lands looking -always looking – for a puddle deep enough to float our trusty OC-1’s. Fang Rock’s be damned!