Trip Report: Black Canyon Canoeing Trip, Colorado River below Hoover Dam

Black Canyon Canoeing Trip, Colorado River below Hoover Dam
By Tom Hamann
BOATING 04/04/2019 MOD

Black Canyon Canoe Trip

April 5-7, 2019

Organized by Cindy Spangler and Tom Hamann

The trip began Thursday with participants arriving and settling in at the Hoover Dam Lodge. A group dinner was scheduled for 730 pm and provided the participants time to meet and discuss the final details of the trip. Friday morning came early, with canoers and gear descending upon our paddle craft staging area in the hotel parking lot. When our outfitter, Desert Adventures, arrived we loaded gear, received instructions, and headed to the put-in. Since the put-in is in a secure location just below the Hoover Dam, paddlers heading south are required to use an outfitter as they have been granted security clearance to access the area.

At the launch site, paddlers and outfitters scrambled to quickly get gear and canoes offloaded from the shuttles and down to the river bank. Once the canoes were in the water and loaded we paired up with our partners and we were off on our roughly 12-mile adventure from the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach.

Because we were required to offload so quickly we didn’t have much time to enjoy the dramatic view of the dam and the Colorado River Bridge that spans Black Canyon. No matter, the beautiful surroundings and tranquil, crystal clear, waters easily made up for the speed of the put-in.

We were on the river for only a short time when we made our first stop to check out Sauna Cave. Sauna Cave is a man made cave tunneled into the rock by workers who were working on the Hoover Dam. The workers tunneled about 50 feet before they hit a natural hot spring. The cave is dark, hot and steamy, and filled with knee deep water.

Unfortunately, the tranquility did not last long as the winds came and kicked up waves on the river which made for some tricky paddling. Luckily, we didn’t have to paddle far, and we beached the canoes to play on rocks and scramble up two beautiful side canyons, Goldstrike and Boyscout. Thank you, Tom for bringing your rope!

When we finished exploring, it was time to get back in the canoes for a paddle to Arizona Hot Springs Beach. The river was still a bit wavy but not quite as bad as earlier in the day. At the beach, we tied up the canoes, offloaded our gear, and found a great location to set up camp. The evening was filled with food, drink, cupcakes to celebrate Tom’s birthday, conversation, and enjoyment of each other’s company. Thank you Sue for bringing the cupcakes.

Saturday was spent on land and several members of the group set out on an 8-mile loop hike to explore White Rock Canyon and Liberty Arch. The hike ended with a much-needed soak in Arizona Hot Springs which are a series of four pools that increase in temperature the closer you get to the source of the spring.

Sunday came much too quickly, and it was time to paddle to our destination, Willow Beach. Along the way we saw the remnants of an old gauging station that was used to measure depth and flow of the river before the dam was built. We also paddled into the very cool Emerald Cave. Inside the cave, the water is a striking bright green color. One of the most memorable moments came when a bald eagle landed on a small beach for a drink of water and a herd of big horn sheep was seen on a hillside just before we beached the canoes at Willow Beach.

The trip was an amazing adventure and not one that I’m likely to forget. A special shout out to Tom and Cindy for the planning and execution of this trip. You both did a terrific job. Also, to Paul for his expert paddling and ensuring our youngest paddler, Avery, had a fun and safe adventure.

Trip members: Cindy, Brandon, Tom, Maddie, Sue, Katie, Marty, Logan, Keri, Avery, Jen, Teresa, Jeff, and Paul