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Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area - BEST Places to Picnic

601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005

Visitor Center (Open 7 Days a Week)
(702) 293-8990
Park Info. Desk (Open M-F)
(702) 293-8906

Explore the Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers a wealth of things to do and places to go year-round. Its huge lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen while its desert rewards hikers, wildlife photographers, and roadside sightseers. It is also home to thousands of desert plants and animals, adapted to survive in an extreme place where rain is scarce and temperatures soar.

Plan Your Visit

What to See and Do

Like the desert, the Alan Bible Visitor Center offers great opportunities to those who pause and take a closer look.

The Discovery Center holds stories and information about one of the most extreme areas on earth, the Mojave Desert. Explore the exhibits to see how plants and animals survive out here, how to read the stories in rocks and mountains, and how the landscape has changed over the ages. Gather around the relief map to see how vast Lake Mead is and to learn about the land before Hoover Dam was built.

The Information Desk is a place for answers. Maps, hiking directions, scenic routes, ways to have fun at the lake, and more can be found here. Looking for a stamp for your Passport to your National Parks book? The Alan Bible Visitor Center has stamps for both Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. Ask about our junior ranger program for kids.

After a day of exploration and discovery at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, visit the park bookstores located in the Alan Bible Visitor Center and at Katherine Landing. Enjoy our wide selection of books about Lake Mead and life in the Mojave Desert. You will also find Lake Mead collector items, maps, desert puppets, hats and hiking staffs, games and more.

Things to Do

With Lakes Mead and Mohave as the central focus, visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area may enjoy a variety of water recreation activities in a rugged and picturesque setting. Lakes Mead and Mohave offer some of the country's best sport fishing. Boating and water skiing are favorite activities on the broad expanses of open water, along with kayaking and canoeing.

Shaded picnic areas with tables, water, fire grills, and restrooms are located throughout the area.

Several paved roads wind through the dramatic desert scenery of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Towering stark mountains, plateaus, desert basins of cactuses and creosote bush, and vertical-walled canyons are some of the sights motorists can discover. Short desert hikes lead to places you will never see from a boat or car.

Before the existence of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Hoover Dam, the area encompassing the one and half million acres of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area was occupied by early desert Indian cultures, adventurous explorers, and ambitious pioneers looking for cheap land and religious freedom, and prospectors seeking riches.

Based on archaeological evidence, several Native American cultures have been identified as having existed 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in an environment wetter and cooler than it is today where they hunted game, gathered local edible plants and practiced farming. 

In a cave near present-day Lake Mead, the remains of large mammals were discovered by archaeologist, Mark R.Harrington and paleontologist James Thurston including: ground sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis), horse (Equus sp.), camel (Camelops sp.) and mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis). Notches found on the bones of animals located in that primitive dwelling show evidence that they were prepared and eaten by humans.

Various prehistoric culture groups made the Colorado River region their. Archaeological investigations have provided evidence that some were hunter/gatherers and lived in caves; other groups lived in pit houses and Puebloan-type structures, and practiced early farming. Ranging from present day Davis Dam north to the Virgin and Muddy Rivers, these early farming groups grew corn, beans, squash and cotton.

Their technology included pottery of the reddish-brown and gray-brown buff ware with simple black and red decoration; they ground corn and seeds with manos and metate and hunted game with spears, bows & arrows made from local or traded materials.

In 1855, Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives traveled the lower Colorado River in search of safe and efficient passage upon the steamship, Explorer. Following Ives, John Wesley Powell continued exploration of the upper Colorado River from the Grand Canyon to where it meets the Virgin River. Powell became a noted historian of the region.

The southwestern desert with its arid environment was a most inhospitable environment in which to live. For centuries the early native inhabitants living along the Colorado River found innovative ways to irrigate small agricultural plots. The region became more and more populated by white settlers with the advent of rail transportation and the discovery of gold and silver in the mountains of southern Nevada. Mormon pioneers established communities and prospectors established mining claims up and down the river.

Visionaries desiring continued westward expansion sought to discover ways to harness the power of the river to allow for large-scale irrigation and other industries. Thus, the concept of building a dam was born.

The Reclamation Act of 1902 thus instituted, the construction of Boulder Dam, later to be named Hoover Dam, began in 1931.

The reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River became Lake Mead, named after Elwood Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation commissioner at the time. The newly formed lake drew thousands of visitors to this wondrous contrast of desert and water. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area became the first national recreation area in 1964. Today, millions of visitors each year come to enjoy the many recreational opportunities found within the park�s diverse landscape.


Attracted at first by the cool, refreshing water, visitors find other unexpected rewards. The quiet, stark beauty of the Mojave Desert with its dramatic exposed geology and the suprising abundance of specially adapted plant and animals offers a variety of experiences for everyone.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a startling contrast of desert and water, mountains and canyons, primitive backcountry and busy marinas. Dams that back up the Colorado River as it flows through one of the hottest, driest regions on earth created Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Established as America's first national recreation area, it is a destination for millions of visitors who flock to the desert for boating, fishing, swimming and water-skiing.

Places to Picnic

  • Blue Point Spring
  • Boulder Beach
  • Callville Bay
  • Cotton Wood Cove
  • Katherine Landing
  • Los Vegas Bay
  • Princess Cove
  • Redstone
  • Rogers Spring
  • South Arizona Telephone Cove
  • Temple Bar
  • Valley of Fire (NV) State Park
  • Willow Beach

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