Lake Mead National Recreation Area, administered by the U.S. National Park Service, is located just over the mountains that border the eastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley (map). The primary feature at Lake Mead is, not surprisingly, the lake. Hoover Dam blocks the Colorado River, forming a lake that floods some 60 miles of the Colorado River Valley (from Boulder City to the lower end of the Grand Canyon. The Virgin River Valley, which comes in from the north, is flooded to the town of Overton, adding another 25 miles to the lake (referred to as the Overton Arm).
Activities at Lake Mead primarily are orientated around the water (e.g., boating, fishing, and swimming). However, the lake only takes up about 13% of the park area, and the remaining 87% is mostly wild land that offers some amazing hiking opportunities. The geology of this sandstone-limestone-volcanic-metamorphic faulted-twisted-contorted-eroded land, while nearly impossible to comprehend in total, is stunningly stark and beautiful, and three of the four North American desert ecosystems (Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran, but not the Chihuahuan) meet here, providing for a varied and diverse flora and fauna.
This is relatively low desert (the elevation of the lake surface is about 1,200 feet), and temperatures often are about 10 degrees higher at the lake than they are in Las Vegas. Thus, dry-land activities at Lake Mead generally are restricted to the cooler months (e.g., October through May).
For More Information on Getting to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Hours of Operation, Entrance Fees, Car Camping, Hiking Permits, Precautions, Rules and Regulations, and Links to More Information, visit the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Overview Page.