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Black Canyon Guide
Rafting or canoeing the Black Canyon Water Trail is to experience a mixture of beauty and rich history. The entire water trail is approximately 30 miles long. The Colorado River forms the border between Nevada and Arizona along this stretch of river. River right is Nevada, and river left is Arizona. The official trail begins just below the Hoover Dam (permit required) and travels 30 miles downstream to El Dorado Canyon. This guide presents an alternate trip with no permits required. The suggested trip in this guide is to put in at Willow Beach, 11.5 miles downstream of the Hoover Dam, and to paddle upstream towards the Dam to one of many riverside campsites. From your campsite, you can float back to Willow Beach as a round trip. This trip is most commonly done on canoes or kayaks.
Blazin’ Paddles provides full-day and half-day professionally guided kayak tours so that you can safely enjoy the beauty of the Black Canyon and walk away with amazing memories of a sustainable adventure on the Colorado River. Learn more about Blazin’ Paddles.
About this guide
This guide outlines one continuous 11.5 mile stretch from Willow Beach to the mid-river restricted access sign near to the Hoover Dam. It is not legal to travel past that sign without a permit – contact the NPS for more information if you have questions regarding travel near to the Hoover Dam. Note that this guide outlines how to do this section of the Colorado without a permit. This requires paddling upstream first, with a return to take-out at the initial put-in site. The total mileage of this trip is closer to 23 miles if done as a full round trip.
All data points were collected using GPS. These locations were checked against Google Earth for accuracy. Distances are the averages of repeated trips that were GPSed.
Rafting or canoeing the Black Canyon Water Trail is a casual and scenic adventure. As you paddle you can explore lush caves, mining remnants, hot springs, side canyons, and more. Detailed information of the entire route, including regulation/permit information for those wishing to launch at the Hoover Dam, can be found here.
Upper Black Canyon of the Colorado River is a beginner run. There are important safety considerations to keep in mind, though. The water in this section of the Colorado is very cold as it is released from the bottom of Lake Mead. Beginner canoers capsize frequently in this section of river. Bring back-up layers in dry bags in case you take a longer-than-expected swim. It is crucial to always wear your PFD while on the river. The current picks up significantly in the late afternoon/evening as higher electricity demand leads to a greater release from Lake Mead for hydroelectric production. Try to paddle early in the day and afternoon to ensure the safest flows.
The extremely rare but deadly amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, is known to exist in the hot springs along this stretch of river. Despite being exceedingly rare, it is important to keep your head above water when enjoying the hot springs. More information about the amoeba can be found, here.
Launching from Willow Beach and paddling upstream (this guide) or downstream (more information here) does not require a permit. If you wish to launch at the Hoover Dam you must go with an outfitted adventure.
Paddling Black Canyon? Our Black Canyon guide has you covered: 17 waypoints | Live location | Waypoint Commenting | 27 photos
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