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Black Canyon - Hoover Dam to Willow Beach, AZ

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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > Kingman N
4.6 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 12 miles
Trailhead Elevation 714 feet
Avg Time One Way 6-8 hours
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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5  2019-04-27 lwbenso
10  2017-10-22 azbackpackr
19  2017-04-23 arizona_water
119  2013-03-15
Colorado - Hoover to Willow Beach AZ
Author arizona_water
author avatar Guides 8
Routes 114
Photos 1,079
Trips 117 map ( 1,352 miles )
Age 29 Male Gender
Location Salt River Valley
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Oct, Feb → 5 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:21am - 6:46pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Straddle the NV - AZ Border!
by arizona_water

This description is for the Black Canyon section of the Colorado River, from the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. This is a 12+ mile paddle that is often done as an overnighter. Permits must be obtained from the National Park Service. Note that it is NOT possible to do this trip by self-shuttle. The Bureau of Reclamation, the NPS, and Army Corps of Engineers collaboratively operate a security checkpoint at the to the road below the dam. Therefore, you must work with a local outfitter who is certified by the NPS.
( see permit section for links to info )

The trip can easily be done in a day, but two days would provide more time for exploring side canyons, hot springs (there are five named hot springs with the immediate Black Canyon area), and swimming! Both canoes and kayaks work well on the slow moving waters. The dam release is often during the night, and it is unlikely to affect a paddle trip. If anything, you will notice slightly higher water levels, but the current generally stays constant.

There are several sandy beaches that provide good camping opportunities. Powerboats are not allowed up river of Willow Beach on the weekends, which makes the paddling experience much more authentic and wild. The current of the river is mild, and head winds can make you feel like you're paddling on a lake at times.

Must see stops include:
The Sauna Cave, NV side, between mile marker 63 and 62
Boy Scout Canyon, NV side, between mile marker 62 and 61
Arizona Hot Spring, AZ side, at mile marker 60
Emerald Cave and Gauging station catwalk, AZ side, at mile marker 54

See Black Canyon pdf for map and further points of interest.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your kayak trip to support this local community.

2017-04-27 arizona_water
  • Black Canyon
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    Black Canyon
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Black Canyon - Hoover Dam to Willow Beach
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Beautiful starting point! Wish we would have taken more pictures on the water by the dam. The group I was with wanted to hurry along so we missed out on the sauna cave and the boy scout trail (I'll have to redo this in the future and get to those!). Otherwise the weather was pretty warm and we were in direct sunlight. We camped at Arizona Hot Springs; the camp site was was overcrowded. There were tents from the beach through the last camp site, busy weekend! Would recommend doing this in March before the heat roles in. In the evening we found a nice spot to cliff dive and that was probably the highlight of the trip. When we went to Emerald Cave the next day there were so many tour groups coming through from Willow Beach that we only had a few minutes in the cave before we had to left. Overall I'd say good trip, but extremely popular
Black Canyon - Hoover Dam to Willow Beach
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Oct. 22, 2017. Posting this a bit late. A group of us, all from western Arizona area, paddled upstream from Willow Beach about 6 and a half miles, on a gorgeous day. We had a lot of fun, despite not making it all the way to Arizona Hot Springs. We had several noobs in the group who got a bit tuckered-out, but everyone said they had a lot of fun. And I got those nice photos of the coyote on the beach.
Black Canyon - Hoover Dam to Willow Beach
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We did this route as a day trip with a large group of friends. We worked with Desert River Kayak to obtain access to the put-in at the dam. The morning started out great, but by the early afternoon, we were taking on some pretty significant headwinds. The winds picked up to 25mph, with gusts up to 40mph, according to NOAA. Despite the weather, this is a really fun trip. It would be ideal to do this as an overnight and camp on one of the sandy beaches. This would allow more time to explore the many side canyons. That being said, Boy Scout Canyon was by far the most interesting and unique place we stopped. We avoided Goldstrike Canyon because there were so several boats already parked there, and I don't like waiting in line to hike...
I did make an exception for AZ hot spring, since everyone in my group wanted to see it.

It's getting close to that time of year when humans should avoid the Colorado Main Stem. It gets rather warm, even in April. However, the dam does tend to release more water to downstream users this time of year. And the cold water is a reprieve from the relentless sun.

Awesome trip. Not sure if I will do it again anytime soon. But I will definitely look for a way to get back in Boy Scout Canyon! :D
Black Canyon - Hoover Dam to Willow Beach
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Colorado - Hoover to Willow Beach AZ
Joe, if you're gonna read all of this... better get a sandwich. Something like this was never even a twinkle in my eye but it should have been. WHAT FUN! We drove over the nite before and stayed at the Bullhead City Hotel which was certainly nothing to write home about. The next morning we were all up and at 'em and at the pick-up area rarin' to go. In fact, our whole group was early only to have to wait. There was some kind of excuse for the delay and excuses would continue for about the entire time they serviced us. It made many of us wonder what we were tipping for?

Anyway, we finally made it to the put-in place below Hoover Dam (at mile 64) along with many other folks who were getting on the big rafts. I was surprised to learn that WE would have to carry our canoes down to the water as I kind of thot that was what we were paying for. Needless to say, it gave a whole new meaning to carrying your gear :o ! We were a great group and everyone off-loaded the vans and trailers and before you knew it, I was sitting in a canoe :scared: with a fast-flowing current whizzing by.

I assumed we would have to paddle to move but the current ended up being so swift, it really became a matter of steering. I've never been in a canoe before so it was a quick intro to "row, row, row your boat." We were barely able to get pics back toward the dam and of the old cat walk. We soon found out how quickly we were going as I said to Anne, "let's join the others" at some cove only to realize we were nearly passed it with no hope of turning back. So we decided to wait at the next beach I could see ahead. It was a little hard stopping there too but we did.

Next up was Sauna Cave (mile 63). The one great advantage of only having the 7 canoes is that we could pretty well fit in a spot no matter how small. We spent a few moments here to test the waters. It was quite hot in spots for sure. There was also a very HOT nature shower if you were so inclined. You will see it on the video.

From there we pushed off and somehow managed to get across the river to this tiny area at Lone Palm Canyon (mile 62 1/2) where there is a little waterfall. We waited for the others to arrive which ended up being quite the show as the swift current made it difficult to manuever to this spot. You'll hear us on the video cheering everybody on. While waiting, Ed even pulled out a chair and sat in the river (it's on the video too) as well as a look deep into a small alcove that had a very interesting rock formation inside.

We paddled on past The Ear (mile 61 3/4) arriving at Boyscout Canyon where we hiked in to have some lunch at the first little hot spring. After eating we went up the canyon climbing past one waterfall only to encounter a much more swift waterfall that required a rope to get up. I decided that was more than I was ready for so I just filmed it. We had one hiker crash and burn just as he topped out. The waterfall areas are not tall but the water is flowing pretty good and it's quite slippery.

Of course, half the fun was getting back down. A couple of the guys made sure we got down safely and one of them even grabbed my camera and my picture :) . Earlier he had grabbed his girlfriend as she came down the steeper falls :lol: . We had two miles left to paddle our way to Arizona Hot Springs beach. There were lots of birds and ducks and such; more than I thot there would be. As they flew by so close and with canyon walls on each side, you could hear their wings flapping :D . This was particularly impressive when a whole flock would take off and of course, the noise they made during departure and landing on the water was pretty cool too.

The color of the water was ever-changing and sometimes you would go over very large rocks that were almost at water level. And sometimes you don't see the big rocks until you're on top of them. It was such a rush as you thot for sure the bottom of the boat would hit them. Next stop would be AZ Hot Springs Beach after you managed to go thru the Ringboldt Rapids (mile 60). They weren't too bad though. Once at the beach it was time to find a place for your tent. There were already a couple groups in residence (including one whole canyon) but we managed. Then we had to lug all of our coolers and gear etc up the beach (mile 59 3/4). Soon many of us were hanging out with our chairs in the river and a beer in our hand watching across the way as a couple sheep families walked across the canyon wall :DANCE: . Wish I would have had my newer camera with the longer zoom.

A few folks ran up to the Hot Springs, I went a little later only to the first little waterfall as I didn't want to get my shoes wet plus it was late. By the time I got back, it was time for hot dogs. That nite as we sat by the fire, the talent show began in the canyon behind us. We already had the pleasure of meeting the leprechaun and some of the other folks on the beach but the amplified talent show was just a bit much :oplz: . And then, some old codger who had planted himself near the path to the bathroom decided to fire up his tape deck and play some 80s music over and over and over.

Apparently he and the other group come here every year. And then the crowning moment of the karaoke "I will survive" started :yuck: , I asked Wendy, do you think we can make 'em shut it down after 10 :pray: ? Well she caught 2 of them that had been stopped by the old codger before they headed back and the most politest "wendy" voice I've ever heard, she told them it was after 10 and would they be ending soon. Fortunately, about 1/2 hr later they did. We could still hear their voices as they talked about singing without the amp but they didn't. WHEW! So we put the fire out and retired for the nite.

The next day was our hike: It was pretty warm when we got back so we hung out with Lee and Chris as they were in a shaded section. We drank a beer and some margaritas as we watched the activity when the many, many boyscouts showed up along with another smaller group. One of our fellow campers tent site was soon surrounded including by the masters as they watched her in her bikini and she kindly asked them to move one of the tents. One of our other fellow campers moved a little closer to her to provide a shield. Needless to say, this along with another more elderly group, provided our happy hour entertainment.

Next up was a hike and dip in the Hot Springs. For this you hike up a narrow slot canyon, a couple small waterfalls and past the first hot spring pool to the ladder. Yep, you climb this rather tall ladder to get to the soaking spring. There is another spring further on up but they say it's super hot so we just hung here. I did get a short 3 minute video
We finished the evening with Taco Night, one of my favorite camping menu items. We did get stuck with the amp group and the natural amplifciation of the scout troop. In fact, the scout leaders decided that maybe they didn't have their canoes/kayaks stacked far up enough on the beach so they decided around 8 or so to move all of the 16 or more canoes waking up the whole neighborhood as everyone came down to see what the commotion was all about. Once that was over, I think it took the steam out of the amplified talent show nite 2 story telling :-({|= as by 10, it was much more quiet than the nite before.

The next day we had planned on paddling out around 9 but it appeared since the boy scouts were doing the same, we would wait until they had left the beach. We finished packing our gear into the canoes and headed down the river around 9:30. Little did we know, we would soon bunch up in the Irish flotilla, listen to Irish music and partake in some Jamison's and Bailey's. A couple had brot their Irish lucky charm shamrock headbands so that more or less got the party started. We flotillad for a mile or so as our laughter echoed up and down the river.

We headed on into a quick look at the tall little waterfall at Weeping Springs Cove (mile 58 3/4), observed the Gravity Fault and remarked at the Balanced Rock before stopping at Cranes Nest Canyon (mile 56) for a short walk up the canyon until it clogged. Folks hung out here awhile before getting back in the canoes. Up river from here you could also see the rock feature they call the Dragon's Back. We paddled about 1/2 mile to Rice Weed Canyon (mile 55 1/2). There was some really cool-colored green water here. As we continued down the river we spotted a bunch of sheep so took our time to get some pictures.

Next we crossed back over to another beach for another break. We had time to kill before our 4PM arrival time at Willow Beach so no need to hurry :) . The youngest couple on the trip liked jumping off rocks into the river so for the second time this day they found a good place and did just that; it's on the video.

We continued down the river fighting an occasional current or swirl or eddy and in about another mile we would spot the Gauging Station (mile 54 1/4) with the cable and car hanging above. We knew the highlight feature of the trip was on the other side so of the river so we had to paddle across arriving at the aptly named Emerald Cave. It was such a sight really... well the water was. This cave and its water have been in many magazines and now on HAZ:

Next we had to paddle back up the river to get to a place we could tie up to get to the catwalk. You walk high above the river on a very narrow trail and eventually reach some planks to get you over to the catwalk itself. However, the catwalk is padlocked so that's where the trail ends. It's an awesome hike though and worth the trouble.

Alas it was back in the boats for the longest paddle of the trip for a mile and 1/2 to Willow Beach. Along the way you pass a historic trailhead used by the gaugers since the 20s and one of the largest fish hatcheries in the US before arriving at Willow Beach. The beach is already crowded with the previous boaters and all of us trying to get back to the hotel at once. Apparently Desert Adventures didn't plan well and they didn't have room for us and our gear. So we came up with the idea of sending the drivers for the vehicles and the rest of us would wait.

This was a wonderful experience :y: and I would do it again in a heartbeat and would recommend you all give it a whirl. Sometimes I can't get over how lucky I am and it helps to know the right people, ha!

At Kingman we ate at Dambar and the steak was wonderful but the Nachos : app : were the best I've EVER had and I think the others may agree with me on this one.

Lots of videos for you. You need to make sure your setting is HD 1080 (next to CC on the menu line below the vide) otherwise the stabilizing feature gets annoying:
Video Part 1 - from the Dam to Boy Scout Canyon including the walk up the waterfalls:
Video Part 2 - from Boy Scout Canyon to Arizona Hot Springs Beach and walk toward AZ Hot Srpings:
Arizona Hot Springs (3:21min):
First part of hike to White Rock Canyon:
Second part of White Rock Canyon hike:
Day 3 CANOEING St Patty's Day
Video Part 1 - Irish Flotilla to Cranes Nest Canyon:
Video Part 2 Rice Weed Canyon to Willow Beach via Emerald Cave & Catwalk:

Permit $$
Special Use

Lake Mead NRA National Park
Lake Mead Fees & Permits

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To kayak trip
This will depend on where your outfitter will be meeting you.
Directions to Willow Beach:
From Kingman, Drive N on US93 for 57 miles. Turn west onto Willow Beach road. Park at the marina.
page created by arizona_water on Apr 27 2017 10:55 am
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