John Wesley Powell defied the myth of the Colorado River’s invincibility and led the first expedition through the Grand Canyon, according to history.net. His bravery and heroism, some might say foolishness and bravado, put him in the middle of Americas exploration of the west. Along with the great migration to the Oregon territory, the Gold Rush into California, and the voyages of exploration by John C. Fremont, Powell sought to map the Southwest and pave the way to tame America’s wild west.
By the 1920’s the Colorado River was seen as the answer for farmers and residences from the dry climates of seven different states. Negotiations between seven states, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming centered on distribution of water and the prevention of another break in the canals like the one in 1905 that created the Salton Sea in California. The states didn’t want another disaster. A dam to capture the water and distribute it would serve two purposes: to tame the river from seasonal flooding and provide irrigation to the Southwest. The best place to dam the Colorado was in Black Canyon between Nevada and Arizona about 39 miles outside of Las Vegas. By 1922 Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was able to broker a deal for the distribution of water opening the way for the construction of the dam.
Today, the Boulder Dam, now renamed Hoover Dam for the president who authorized it construction, creates Lake Mead and tames the wild Colorado River. Far from being the wild torrent John Wesley Powell navigated, today anyone can rent a canoe or kayak and paddle the rivers gentle waters. My twelve-mile day started just below the 800’ cement Hoover Dam. My guides, Antonio and Danelle from Kayak Las Vegas, were great throughout our paddle. We stopped to look at streams flowing into the river from the canyon, took some time to sit in hot springs and were awed by the sheer faces of the canyon walls. We even saw a bald eagle.
Las Vegas Kayaks took care of all the details. We rented quality rotomolded plastic sit-inside kayaks. They provided paddles, PFDs and lunch. All we had to add was a good attitude and a camera. I added two cameras during the day; a Nikon AW100 mounted to a tripod and strapped to the deck and an Olympus OM-D10 MII in a dry bag.
I used the Nikon for video and the Olympus for some quality stills. Good company with my new for-a-day friends and beautiful scenery made for a great day on the Colorado River on a pleasant spring day.
What about you? Have you been on the Colorado River downstream from Hoover Dam? What was it like?