Arizona, Camping, Hiking, Lake Mead National Recreational Area, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Nevada, United States

A BeaUTAHful Bucket List: Day 7 – Wrapping up the Colorado River via kayak

Day 7 – April 1, 2022

The take aways…

  • I need Crocs
  • The Instagramers have taken over Emerald Cave
  • Nothing feels better than a warm Venture Wipe
  • Nothing tastes better than In N Out Burger
  • Chloride, AZ is where I am going to retire
  • Bags of dirt are frightful

The second day of kayaking the Black Canyon of the Colorado River greeted us shortly after sunrise. After all, sleeping in while in a tent in the desert doesn’t work as things heat up quite quickly. I poked at my destroyed feet, vowing to buying Crocs as I tentatively shoved them back into the Chacos.

Eric was quicker to rise than me (an odd occurrence, as I’m a slight more morning-y than he is), and ran back to the tent, all excited that the river had rose an incredible amount, informing me that the water was at a particular item of trash that was discarded on the side of the path leading to our tent from the beach. (Okay, so our campsite had some adult diapers in a tree and a used feminine product along the trail… humans are disgusting and awful… and they were serving as landmarks apparently.) And this is why you need to secure your kayaks and make sure you’re way up the shore!

Luckily by the time I crawled out of the tent, packed up my gear, and got dressed, the water levels decreased and we were able to enjoy a big breakfast on the beach.

Breakfast tacos

Today would be a way bigger push than our first day on the river, with about 9.5 miles of paddling laying ahead of us. With less stops to explore, it would definitely be a workout for my arms, but we knew we had plenty of time to make our 4pm pullout time at Willow Beach.

Leaving our campsite

From the looks of it, I was no longer the same water fearing Heidi as I dangled my legs out of the side of the kayak, soaking my poor feet in the cool water, all the while handling the wake from boats like a pro, and backing into caves.

It was a hot day on the river, and the sun felt brutal. We stopped on a beach to make some lunch, and our cheese for sandwiches had started to melt despite being surrounded by chilly water! I suddenly could only think about how great a shower would feel, sad about how I had already managed to dirty my hair again.

No shade, just lots of sunshine and lots of paddling
Time for lunch!
We spotted several desert bighorn sheep!
Seeking a few moments out of the hot sun
The historic gauging station

The closer we got to Willow Beach, the more boat traffic there was along with an increase in kayakers on day trips coming upstream. The crowds spelled disaster for seeing Emerald Cave, a spot made popular by social media. There was an incredibly long line just to take a photo, and I told Eric I was fine without a photo in the spot since we had photos from other spots of the brilliant green water.

Plenty of other emerald waters to explore without standing in a fifty person deep line for Emerald Cave

And thus, we entered the crowds. I actually had a guy in a canoe paddle straight towards me, nearly T-boning me as his wife screeched at him to not do that. Children cried loudly. Boats buzzed by. What a difference from the peaceful scenes from yesterday!

At 2:30pm-ish we ran ashore at Willow Beach. I HAD DONE IT! Fifteen miles of kayaking the Colorado River, and I DIDN’T DIE!!!

I did it! And I didn’t die!

Our shuttle driver appeared about 3pm, which was great as we were his only passengers to pick up, so we were able to leave an hour earlier than planned. The air conditioned van felt heavenly and in no time we were back at the truck at the Hoover Dam Lodge. Our driver did get us for April Fools, stopping the van and after getting out to look at the trailer, told us we had a flat tire! Alas, no flat tire and we remembered what day it was.

Because of our earlier than expected return, we had a chance to stop at the Alan Bible Visitor Center for Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Despite smelling a bit ripe and looking like we had spent a solid two days on the water, we eagerly stamped our passport books and took to buying more souvenirs. Then we found a restroom to clean up in.

Lake Mead from the Alan Bible Visitor Center
A ringtail cat, just like we saw at camp the night before!
Map of our route, from the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach

It was nearly 90 degrees, and my Venture Wipes were warm from sitting in the truck for a few days. And they felt heavenly. I cleaned up myself the best I could with a wipe, enjoyed washing my face, and putting fresh, clean clothes on. We headed back towards Henderson for some In-N-Out Burger, and then back to Albertsons in Boulder to restock on sandwich provisions and other items that we had used up (or that went bad from being in a boiling hot cooler for a few days).

This was worth kayaking all those miles AND driving back into Henderson!

As sunset approached, we set out eastward for another long drive of nearly four hours. Grand Canyon, here we come! We rolled past little desert towns with funny names like Chloride while I researched them on Wikipedia, and enjoyed Historic Route 66 nostalgia in Williams.

Grabbed a photo of the entrance sign for Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Outside of Tusayan we found camping in the national forest for the night. This would put us a stone’s throw from the south rim of the Grand Canyon in the morning, with hopes of beating the crowds trying to enter the park and partake in the shuttle service.

Eric pulled into one promising campsite when we noticed what seemed to be a few items left behind… a tent, a five gallon water jug, and… a MASSIVE bag of dirt. Eric and I exchanged confused glances. We could rationalize a tent and water jug being left behind accidentally… but who travels around with a 50 pound bag of dirt?! Serial killers, that’s who! “We can’t stay here,” stated Eric as he backed the truck up.

We found another campsite a safe distance from the scary bag of dirt, flung up the tent, and crawled in after a long, exhausting day! “I don’t think I’m getting back out of the tent to pee, I’m scared!” I stated before settling into sleep.

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