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Colorado - Hoover to Willow Beach, AZ
mini location map2009-02-15
21 by photographer avatarwritelots
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Colorado - Hoover to Willow Beach, AZ 
Colorado - Hoover to Willow Beach, AZ
Kayak avatar Feb 15 2009
Kayak11.00 Miles
Kayak11.00 Miles2 Days         
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For this trip, we contracted with an Outfitter to rent canoes and obtain passage to the magical access point just below Hoover Dam. This access point is protected by a gate which can only be opened by the concessioner - and he watches you like a hawk until the boats have gotten downstream of the secured area. I won't go into the politics of Hoove Dam security, but the benefit of all of this is an uncrowded launch site and an amazing view of both the dam and the progress on the bypass bridge. They are both engineering feats that boggle the mind with both their power and beauty.

The map distributed by the outfitter gave a number of destination points heading downstream, and many of them are within an easy mile float of the launch site. Because of a combination of a pocket of geothermal activity and water pressure from Lake Mead, there are a number of very hot springs in the area. The heated water finds its way to the surface in small caves, seeps and side canyons, each of which beg exploration.

Our first destination was Dripping Cave - which would have been worthy of a long hike in itself... Water drips out from what seems like a million little outlets all over the walls of this shallow cave. Most of the water is very warm, though every once in a while you get a cold drip, too. There's even one spot where the water shoots like a small spigot. Downstream from there only about 100' is the first side canyon, Goldstrike, which heads up the Nevada side of the canyon. There's enough hot water coming out of this canyon to create a very pleasant cove of warm water right at the confluence. You can hike further upstream all of the way to the highway - and we met many hikers who were coming down from that point. There are a number of good soaking pools along the length of the canyon. Hiking here is a little challenging, with some scrambling and a couple of points where ropes have been left to help you get up and or down - it's kinda like an adult jungle gym. We saw signs of backcountry camping in this canyon, though all were on the canyon floor, so would only be safe if you were darned sure that there wasn't any more water coming.

Just down (a few hundred yards) from Goldstrike was a hot waterfall which came right to the river, and several small caverns and seeps creating neat features you could boat into and play around. The next place to get out and explore was Boyscout Canyon- a quite narrow slot canyon again with lots of warm water. This canyon clearly silts up quickly and attempts to create soaking pools using sandbags and even plastic hose have all failed. Going up this canyon is more difficult, with some tricky footwork over very slick rocks and a little climbing involved. But even those parts which are easily accessible are amazing, and on a cold day it's a nice warm place to hang out.

After more caves, seeps and small waterfalls, we pulled in to camp about 4 miles from the launch site at Arizona Hot Spring Canyon (on the Arizona Side, shockingly enough). The beach here is more pebbly than sandy, but makes for excellent camping. We did not explore the trail that heads back up to the highway, but it is clear that this camping area is as popular with backpackers as it is with boaters. Of course, we got to haul in firewood and ice chests, so we were the obvious cookout winners. The sculpted cliff walls and cool side canyons made even our large group seem manageable. I did not get into the hotsprings here, but I was told they were choice. The access ladder with hot waterfall and deep soaking pools were reportedly a real treat after a cold day on the river.

The next day there were fewer destinations where we could take the boats off the water - the sheer canyon walls went on for miles, with the increasingly deep and wide river moving quietly between them. There were a couple of places that looked like smaller beaches for camping as well, though we were a little rushed to check them out (we dawdled a lot that morning!) We did boat into Emerald Cave, which showcases the crystal clear emerald glow of the water. Above the cave is an old catwalk system that was once part of the most interesting morning commute I can think of (for the person who tended the water gauge on the opposite canyon wall). A few of the more adventurous party members checked that out - although it has been dismantled beyond that short stretch. Just a short paddle from there was the marina where we were to meet up with the outfitter again. The wind was picking up, and we were paddling into it, so we got a good little workout there at the end. A long description, I know, but I hope it helps the next person planning this trip who (like me) had no idea of the wonders to expect (and to explain the accompanying photos)! I think next time I'd spend two nights at Arizona Hot Spring and give myself more time to explore! It's not too hard to paddle up stream, so you'd have lots of fun options.
Bighorn Sheep
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