The dazzling-blue Lake Mead, created by the construction of the Hoover Dam, is about 25mls/40km south of Las Vegas. It is 110mls/177km long and has 550mls/ 885km of freshwater shoreline. It is the Las Vegas outdoor retreat of choice and many permanent residents have boats here. Here you can try out anything from boating to swimming, scuba-diving, kayaking, waterskiing, camping, biking and fishing, while 6 marinas provide docking space for boats, plus restaurants and other services. Every December, a Parade of Lights is held at Lake Mead marina, with a flotilla of powerboats, houseboats and sailing boats covered in lights. A newer, annual event is the hydroplane race held in September. The Visitor Center contains a botanical garden and exhibits on natural history. Here you will find details of a self-guided tour, with tape recording, of the lake's Northshore and Lakeshore roads, plus information about facilities and services.
Visitor Center is 4mls/6km north-east of Boulder City
Year round, 24 hours a day. Visitor Center open daily 8.30am-4.30pm
$5 per vehicle; $3 others
Two not-so-scenic roads - Lakeside Scenic Drive (Highway 146) and Northshore Scenic Drive (Highway 167) provide access to the marinas around the Nevada shoreline of Lake Mead, which include Las Vegas Boat Harbor (702 293 1191), Calville Bay Resort (702 565 8958) and Echo Bay Resort (702 394 4000). These are all full-service marinas offering houseboat and daily deck cruiser rentals, restaurants and gift shops. At night, Callville Bay provides a barbecue on the patio overlooking the lake. Lake Mead Cruises (702 293 6180, www.LakeMead Cruises.com) has sunset, dinner dance and breakfast cruises. If you'd like to explore a little further afield, head off south to Lake Mohave and Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina (1000 Cottonwood Cove Road, Cottonwood, 702 297 1464). It's a fullservice marina offering luxury houseboats, small boats and personal watercraft rentals about one and a half hours south of Las Vegas. For a thrill, Forever Resorts (702 2 9 4 1414) offer The Black Canyon River Adventure - a smooth water-rafting trip in the Black Canyon.
During the cooler months, from November to March, you can take a hike in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on Saturday mornings to learn about the history of the people of the area, from the mining era onwards. Each hike is limited to 25 people and you can make reservations by phoning 702 293 8990.