I was a gondolier at the Venetian a few years ago and really enjoyed that job. Yes, the gondolier actually controls the boat, the boats are not running on a track. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve maneuvered a gondola, the training has aided with adventures kayaking and participating in an outrigger canoe to small islands throughout Hawaii. So when I saw the Facebook post that a bunch of Gondoliers were planning to kayak down the Colorado River, I jumped at the chance to join the crew. Mike Larson organizes this annual outing and I was so ready for a new adventure.
We had a date set for early April. Everyone had to submit their legal names and were told we had to bring photo I. D. Black Canyon is just south of the Hoover Dam which has security cameras located over the entire area. You do need to have an outfitter take you to the point of entry. You can not go down in a private vehicle. We used Desert River Outfitters and if you get the chance to ride the shuttle with Helen, be prepared to fall in love with this fascinating lady. The shuttle takes you close to the point of entry onto the river but not all the way, you do have to carry your gear a little distance down to launch.
Winds were 75 miles an hour the day we planned to go. We were a little concerned that we might have to cancel. Luckily for us the rock barriers on each side of the river blocked quite a bit of the wind in the early hours of the day. Knowing this situation ahead of time, Mike planned for us to just do over 3 of the 11.7 miles for our first day due to fighting head winds. Then we planned to enjoy tail winds on our second day where we would meet our Outfitters down at Willow Beach to pick us up.
There aren’t any white water rapids on this section of the river but in the summer months you can get caught up in fast moving currents and whirlpools due to the dam releasing water for the surrounding states who depend on the energy in these hot months. It’s also extremely hot in the summer with virtually no shading available. If you were to ask my opinion, I would suggest not to go in the summer because of these two factors. You also have to consider all the gear you need to bring in your canoe or kayak. There are no amenities of any kind.
Shortly after starting your trip you will see the Sauna Cave on your right. This will be the first hot springs you encounter with the water temperatures around 132 degrees. The other hot springs are Goldstrike, Boyscout and White Rock Canyon, also known as Arizona Hot Springs. This is where we chose to camp for the night. The pool of hot water was refreshing after fighting winds for a few hours. Something to keep in mind, you shouldn’t start a fire in high winds and you shouldn’t start a fire too close to your tent or shrubs. We noticed a lot of inexperienced campers out there. You also want to be careful not to submerge your head in the hot springs because it may contain an amoeba called Naeglera Fowleri. It’s rare to contract but you should be aware of this.
The trip was adventurous and relaxing. Will I go again? Yes indeed. If you have an adventurous spirit, then I highly recommend this outing. We did the trip in two days. You can do one long day but I think that you might miss some exploring. Some folks like to do it in three days. Two was perfect for me.
By Kelly Vohnn