Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Summer on the water: Your guide to Lake Mead


Sam Morris

Various types of watercraft are seen at Lake Mead Thursday, June 6, 2013.

With 247 square miles of water to explore, Lake Mead is a boater’s paradise with room to roam and fish. When Las Vegas temperatures heat up, there are few better ways to cool off.

But with a slew of rules and a variety of vessels from which to choose, navigating the ins and outs of boating on Lake Mead can be tricky.

Here is a breakdown of the basics to help you make the most of summer on the water.

Boating Do’s and Don’ts

Where to rent

• Desert Adventures

1647 Nevada Highway, Boulder City


• Lake Mead Marina

490 Horsepower Cove, Boulder City


• Callville Bay Resort & Marina

100 Callville Bay Road, Las Vegas


DO wear a life jacket. All vessels are required by law to carry at least one appropriately sized life jacket per person on board. Children ages 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times. Teens and adults can sport them at their own discretion, but safety experts recommend wearing a life jacket while swimming or on a moving boat.

DON’T drink and boat. Driving a boat while intoxicated is just as dangerous as driving drunk in a car. Half of all fatal boat crashes are alcohol-related. Under Nevada law, boating while intoxicated can draw a fine of up to $2,000 for a first-time offense. So if you plan to throw back a few beers, make sure you are a passenger and have a designated operator at the helm.

DO know your boat’s limits. Every marina on the lake oversees a designated boating zone, and some include areas restricted to nonmotorized watercraft. Know where your vessel can and can’t go, particularly on windy days when marinas may limit boating boundaries.

DON’T stray. The lake’s large size can be deceptive, and many visitors forget that when you swim out, you have to swim back. Every year, a number of people drown due to exhaustion, strong currents and high winds that can push boats. Be sure to keep a life jacket on while swimming and remain close to your vessel.

DO buy a vessel pass. Boaters who bring their own watercraft to the lake must have a yearly pass ($30) or single- to seven-day pass ($16), both of which can be purchased on site at the park. In addition, most motorized and paddle-powered watercraft require an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal, which costs between $5 and $20 and can be bought at

DON’T bring Styrofoam or glass. Both are forbidden inside the park, including on the water. So be sure to swap out your bottles and Styrofoam coolers for cans and plastic containers.

DO your homework. No license or training is required to rent or drive a boat on Lake Mead, but the Nevada Department of Wildlife does require anyone born after 1983 to take a boating safety course before hitting the water. The course and exam are offered online at; Nevada Boater Education Cards are provided for a $30 fee as proof of passage. Many rental services, such as Lake Mead Marina, also show boating safety videos on site in lieu of the course.

Types of watercraft available to rent on Lake Mead:

    • Canoes wait to be rented at Lake Mead's Willow Beach. The beach, 14 miles south of Hoover Dam on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, is set to get a $20 million upgrade. The revamped beach area will include a state-of-the-art RV campground, picnicking area, camping area and nature trail. The area is scheduled be ready for use in late 2010.

      Canoes and kayaks

      Average cost: $35-$110 for half day, $45-$125 for full day

      Capacity: 1-2 people

      Great for: Day trips and camping. Easy, sturdy and practical, canoes and kayaks are well suited for exploring the lake at your own pace or embarking on an overnight adventure. They also provide a great workout.

      Need to know: Local rental services often require vessel reservations in advance, particularly on weekends and holidays. Cancellation fees also may be charged, so be sure to plan your trip in advance.

    • Local angler Mike Sisco hooks grub bait to his fishing line as he prepares to fish Sunday at Lake Mead.

      Fishing boats

      Average cost: $25-40 per hour, $215 per day, plus security deposit

      Capacity: 4-5 people

      Great for: A casual day reeling in largemouth bass with fishing buddies. Perfect for small groups, these mid-size boats are ideal for cruising the lake’s coves.

      Need to know: Be sure to get a fishing license or single-day group permit, which are required in Nevada and Arizona. Licenses cost $69 a year or $18 for a single day and can be bought at Lake Mead marinas, local bait and tackle shops or through the Nevada Department of Wildlife at

    • Personal watercraft at anchor line the water along the beach in Boulder Basin at Lake Mead Saturday, September 14, 2002.  SAM MORRIS / LAS VEGAS SUN

      Personal watercraft

      Average cost: $75-$95 per hour, $350-$450 per day, plus security deposit

      Capacity: 1-2 people

      Great for: Speeding around the lake. Jet Skis and WaveRunners give riders the ease and flexibility of basking in the sun or dashing around the lake’s caves and beaches.

      Need to know: Riders must wear life jackets at all times.

    • Despite declining water levels, Kris Verville still finds enough water to kick up with his jet ski at Lake Mead on Oct. 6, 2004. Lake Mead is currently over half full, and its water level dropped approximately 80 feet between 1999 and 2006.

      Ski boats and runabouts

      Average cost: $80-$95 per hour, $450-$560 per day, plus security deposit

      Capacity: 6 people

      Great for: Waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing or speeding around the lake.

      Need to know: Waterskiing and wakeboarding require a minimum of three passengers: a driver, spotter and rider. Skis and wakeboards can be rented for an additional cost.

    • Patio pontoons and cruisers

      Average cost: $50 per hour, $300-$525 per day, plus security deposit

      Capacity: 8-10 people

      Great for: A day cruising with friends or family. These boats offer plenty of space and shade for picnicking, sightseeing or fishing. Some models include amenities such as gas grills, bathrooms and showers.

    • A lighted houseboat sails past Boulder Beach on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, at Lake Mead's Christmas Parade of Lights.


      Average cost: $503-$1,395 daily

      Capacity: 6-15 people

      Great for: Extended excursions. Whether you’re looking to spend quality time with your family or party with a group of friends, houseboats provide a way to get away without going too far.

      Need to know: Be sure to book well in advance as reservations fill up quickly.

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