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I hit the jackpot at Willow Beach!

Posted by Jody on June 29, 2012

I’ve made the 585 mile driving trip between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada many times a year – for 22 years now.  So, there’s no telling how many times I’ve passed the nondescript sign to Willow Beach on US Hwy 93,  less than 50 miles south of the famous Las Vegas Strip. I’m talking hundreds!

Why hadn’t we ever stopped at Willow Beach? Well, for a long time there was major road construction on the Hoover Dam fly-over (it seemed like decades).  Over the years, our in-car deliberations included, but were not limited to: “It’s way too hot to head off onto some remote desert byway.” “We’re almost there. Let’s just get where we’re going.”  “Do we really want to take a detour, especially when we don’t know how many miles it is down the road?”  “It’s probably just some little kayak launch site on the river.” “Are we there yet?”

Road to Willow Beach

On this last trip through, though, I decided I would actually schedule a stop at Willow Beach to see for myself what was out there in the middle of the Mojave Desert, down the dry, dusty, desolate road.

Let me tell you, I hit the jackpot way before I hit the casinos!

View from the shaded picnic tables at the park overlook.

I was absolutely blown away by what I found. Located in the Black Canyon region of the Colorado River, just 11 miles downstream from Hoover Dam, Willow Beach is an amazingly gorgeous and colorful oasis. It really does have to be seen to be believed! It turns out that the National Park Service (Lake Mead National Recreation Area) recently completed a $20 million redevelopment of the Willow Beach area. It shows. Willow Beach has a marina, fishing pier, riverfront trail, plenty of covered picnic tables, multiple comfort stations (restrooms), a cafe, and a convenience store. And, indeed, it does have a kayak launch site.

Willow Beach Marina

The little beaches of this oasis welcome visitors into the placid, crystal clear water of the Colorado. Yes, the Colorado River does flow south through Willow Beach, but the water is calmer (with less current) near its banks. With the air temperature soaring into the triple digits, plenty of folks were splashing and playing in the river, even though the water at Willow Beach remains about 54°F year round. There are no roped off or designated swimming areas, nor are there lifeguards, in this section of the National Recreation Area, so caution is well advised.

Looking towards the fishing pier. Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery is in the background.

By the way, Willow Beach, with it’s million dollar views,  is maybe 3 miles off the highway. It’s totally worth the detour.  I felt like a winner before I even stepped foot in Sin City!


8 Responses to “I hit the jackpot at Willow Beach!”

  1. seapunk2 said


  2. AMAZING! And all it took was the FIRST step in a new direction! BRAVO!
    Kahuna-pule Kimo

  3. Nice find! Looks well worth the detour, and safer to swim than Pt Reyes for sure.

  4. EhkStream said

    I’ve dropped down onto the Colorado at Willow Beach a couple times, kayaking and resting up for the long drive north along the western edge of Nevada. The meeting of riparian and desert environs is great for photography, lots of wildlife. A memorable moment was meeting a herd of desert bighorn sheep there.

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