Lake Mead / Black Canyon in January

My wife and I are looking for flat water and some solitude in January. 8 to 10 days of paddling and hiking. Some things I have heard:

Temperatures are in the 40s and 50s in the Black Canyon during January. (Compared to Chicago, this is great)

Low water on Lake Mead exposes more beaches and this is good (?)

Mice are prolific along the Colorado River

Launch below Hoover Dam is closed. Willow Beach is next best

Black Canyon is shaded most of the time

Does anyone else have thoughts? Cool places to see. Places to avoid. Etc.

Two Days Ago
Surface temps at Lake Mead were 64. Warmer than the air. Much colder water is entering the river from the dam. Black Canyon is the best place to have a chance to spot Bighorns. Lake Mead is the best for sunrises and sunsets. Lake Mead has far superior choices for campsites. Temple Bar Campgrounds, at Mead, has shower the marina has a store/restaurant. At South Cove, on Mead, your near the mouth of the Grand Canyon and the Grand Wash Cliffs. It’s fairly private there. Here’s a couple of photos from around South Cove





Well That Didn’t Work
Lets see if this works.

Hi Dressmeister!
I’ve only paddled the Black Canyon, but there are plenty of people here who can advise you on Lake Mead and surrounding areas. We just did the Black Canyon trip Thanksgiving weekend and it was beautiful as always. The launch at the base of Hoover Dam is indeed open - although we chose to paddle up from Willow Beach. If you’re coming in and renting boats - you can opt for the dam launch site, and you can get info from the outfitters as to how to get the permits needed to launch there.

We launched at Willow Beach and paddled upstream. The water was lower than the last time I was there, and there are more exposed landings, etc. We camped at Arizona Hot Springs - and that is the most popular camping spot (it has pit toilets). If you want real solitude, I would choose a different camp site, and there are plentyto choose from.

Paddling upstream between AZ Hot Springs and the dam was a hoot. With the lower water, there are new gravel bars exposed, which force the water thru some narrows - and that creates some swifter water. It’s a challenge, but we did it. Only near Gold Strike canyon did some of our group portage. Those of us in sea kayaks still paddled upstream past Gold Strike. We went one at a time, and each of us finally overcame that “paddling on a treadmill,” standing still point. It was awesome, challenging, and fun! :wink: Of course, if you launch at the base of the dam, you’ll have a nice relaxing float down.

There are plenty of places to hike in Black Canyon - and several hot springs to enjoy. Turkey Day weekend we had one night down in the low 40’s, but it made our campfire more enjoyable. You aren’t allowed to collect firewood in the canyon, so make sure and bring your own. I put a trip report here on P-net, and there are links in the trip report to maps of the area. Have fun! I’m jealous, and can’t wait to do it again!


Black Canyon
I live in Vegas and paddle the Black Canyon and the lake often. There are some interesting paddles on the lake but the paddle that I do most often is from Willow Beach to the AZ Hotsprings where I camp and enjoy the hot springs. I am going there for Jan 5-7 if the weather is nice. If you have a good sleeping bag you will be fine in January.

I would plan to camp at the hot springs and do side trips and hikes from there. You always meet nice folks up there too. My wife Judy spent Thanksgiving there with Tracy and friends who also replied to your post. Take care and enjoy your trip. If you have questions please feel free to call me at 702-604-8825.

est regards, Daryl

Where to go
Black Canyon to the hot springs or head south from Willow Beach to Cottonwood. This trip will take you through El Dorado canyon about 30 miles to Cottonwood which has all the NPS amenities. You will need to vehicles.

Around Needles you can camp at Moabi state park and paddle Topock Marsh if your interest is birds. Another paddle is the 17 miles down Topock Gorge from Moabi park. Two vehicles needed or an outfitter for pick up.

Lake Meade Temple Bar has all the NPS amenities one could paddle to Bonnelli and Gypsum bay. In the other direction you could go from Temple Bar to Haulapai bay thru a small canyon.


Weather normally sunny, dress warm for the cold evening nights the temps can go down to the low 30’s even the upper 20’s. Days no problem around 60 to 50 degrees. Plenty of places to hike and camp and wildlife to view. Mice none found while camping on a sandy beach outside of Willow Beach.

If you have time the drive from Vegas is around 4.5 hours to lake Powell. Lovely canyons to explore.



We are launching on the 6th. Very much looking forward to the trip. As long as you guys seem enthusiastic about the river, I have two more questions.

I haven’t found a good map that indicates good camp sites. Are they frequent enough that you just pick one when you are ready, or does the wise paddler have the float plan done in detail ahead of time? IOW, how frequent are the good beaches, bars, etc on which we could make camp?

Related to the above, how much does the water level change with releases from the dam? How far up do we have to make camp?



Dress Warm
It can get cold in the canyon. Cold air flows downhill. Since most campsites are in washes you’ll be camping in the coldest spots in the canyon. Water temps won’t help much. Don’t be surprized if it gets below freezing. Don’t count on temperatures hitting 60. That’s possible but so is the possibility of having it getting only into the 40s. Be prepared for the worse. Keep an eye out for desert bighorns.


– Last Updated: Dec-28-06 1:28 AM EST –

Camping on the river is where you please. Campsites are fairly frequent. Just remember the early sunset and its about 12 miles up to the dam. The map I use is from the fishnmap company; Lake Mohave. Or as you head to Willow Beach stop by the Allan Bible NPS visitor center south of Boulder City on the left.
Release times for Hoover Dam for that free ride.
Long term weather is early to predict but accuweather 10 day forecast for Boulder City is sunny mid 50' or lower, evening low 30's with Tues/Wednesday down to the mid 20's; realfeel 14 degrees. As stated dress warm.
drop me an email if you need more info or pictures

More on water levels
No matter how safe you think your boats and gear are… make the extra effort to get to slightly higher ground if at all possible. Always tie your boats up - even if you already carried them so the stern is 15-20’ inland from the water’s edge. Tie them anyway. My first trip there, we saw a boyscout troop’s pfd’s and paddles start to float away…

The water will come up at night – mostly because I’m down here in Southern California clicking the light switch on and off to create more demand from power from Hoover Dam. :wink:

Have fun!

Lake mead and canyon below hoover
About 4 years ago I circumnavigated mead solo in winter. I loved it the fires at night and coyotes howling in the distance. Tons of coves the lake is down 100 feet or so its i dont think ever been full. I kayaked to where the colorado river starts or has a huge current. Lake is so low its way below gods pocket. Across from temple bar beautiful cliffs. When going through narrows there is two of them be careful if wind picks up. It was warm in jan when I want. Hot springs below are real cool, a metal ladder climbs a warm waterfall to nice hot springs . When I went nobody was there. Anyway got to go have fun