This Is Why It Takes 4 Hours to Launch A Boat On Lake Mead

Written by Alan Lemus
Published: October 7, 2022
© Vi
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Did you visit Lake Mead recently? Did you have to wait for a long time to finally get access to the lake? Your concerns are valid. But their reason for keeping you waiting is also justified. 

The water levels have significantly decreased, causing vehicles and people to sink easily. This may come as a surprise, especially with the summer season coming. Lake Mead is one of the most popular destinations to visit during the holidays. But for these vacations, you will have to pick a spot that is better suited for fun rather than a risky adventure. 

But don’t worry, if you do plan on going to Lake Mead, you should do so with caution. In this blog, we will discuss all the restrictions that you might face on the way, the current conditions of the lake, and what can you do in this rough time. Above all, why is all of this happening, and what is with the waiting time?

Why is the Waiting Time Longer Than Expected at Lake Mead?

Lake Mead is not the once-populated tourist site it used to be. Now, you might think that is a good thing because it will be less crowded. But the real reason won’t benefit anybody. The water levels have significantly decreased at Lake Mead. It now stands at 27% of its whole capacity which is quite concerning.

Due to this shocking reason, the authorities decided to open only one launch ramp at the lake, the Hemenway Harbor. Since only one boat ramp is open, the waiting lines are much longer at the lake. People even waited for four hours to finally get their boat into the blue waters. 

Recently, people visited and did not see a line at all. Only three to four cars were present near the shore. But there were other problems, the lake could not host boats at all due to the low water levels. Boats, cars, and even people found themselves sinking.  

Lake Mead Water Levels
These three photos illustrate the dramatic decline in Lake Mead’s water levels from 2000 to 2022.

©Public Domain – License

So, What is Currently Happening at Lake Mead? 

You all must love the absolutely special weekend spent at Lake Mead. Sitting near the picnic spots with your family and arguing over who gets the last sandwich, watching the scenic views of the magnificent mountains surrounding the lake, and enjoying all kinds of water activities. And that is just the main attraction. There is a lot to do there. Or, there was a lot to do there. 

As you all know, climate change is affecting most of the world. Since not many people cared when activists were warning of such signs, the gradual changes are now big problems today. It has started taking a toll on our favorite tourist spots. One such example is Lake Mead.  

Lake Mead has been going through a drought season for around two decades. With the continuous drought season combined with population growth, the water levels have significantly decreased over time. The highest water level recorded was back in 1983 which was nearly 1225 feet. Now, it stands at a mere 1042 feet, seeing more than a 15% decrease in comparison. 

Due to the water levels shrinking, the sand near the shores is now transitioning into mud. This makes the drive for the cars harder and many have even become trapped there. Now, it is an issue that has happened in the past but currently, it is a bigger problem. 

Even cliff jumpers are facing issues in diving. The water stretched, distancing the cliff miles away from the water. In addition, the lake bed carries multiple metal lines and hundreds of rocks that can damage the boats on the water. So, driving the boat in a less crowded area is not so much a treat as it is a risky trip. 

But here is an interesting fact that came out of the whole low water level situation. The items drowned in the lake are now being discovered by the local residents. With approximately 20 feet of water left, locals have gotten on their jet skis to explore the lake beds. And they have made various weird discoveries. 

There are sunken boats, abandoned jet skis, and even a few barrels revealing human remains. Scary? Yes. But they are from the days when Mafia was in full swing. 

Current Conditions of Lake Mead? 

The lake is almost abandoned at the moment. People are advised to launch their boats at their own risk. The ramp situation is like this;

  • Hemenway Harbor – Open. Two lanes on pipe mat. 
  • Callville Bay – Closed.
  • Echo Bay – Closed.
  • Boulder Harbor – Closed.
  • Temple Bar – Closed.
  • South Cove – Closed. But you can launch your boat from the dirt road available south of the ramp. Four-wheel drive recommended.

All the above ramps are closed due to low water levels. The Hemenway Harbor, sustaining the burden of all the ramps, has its conditions too. You cannot launch a boat that is bigger than 24 feet. Having said this, there have been reports of people launching bigger boats into the river but the ramp can only sustain so much load, especially right now. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead’s water level is currently at just 27% capacity.

©CrackerClips Stock Media/

What to Do Now? 

Here are a few safety tips you can take if you are adamant about going to Lake Mead. 

  • Go slow on your boat and take turns with precaution. Due to sinking water levels, the lake bed will expose rocks and hard ridges that could damage the boat.
  • Wear a life jacket while swimming because the water levels keep on fluctuating.
  • Since the water is shrinking, the exposed lake bed is where you can trot. But do not walk on the beach with bare feet to avoid sharp cuts.
  • The shore area is muddy. Drive cautiously as your car may get trapped on the shore. 
  • Avoid cliff jumping at all costs. Even if the water is near the cliff, the water levels may not be deep enough to help you swim. It could be hazardous. 

Alternate Spots to Visit During Summer

The drought has affected Lake Mead for quite some time. But the water levels have decreased significantly lower this year. Until the lake rises back to 1,000 feet, the chances for this lake to host visitors again are quite slim. The experts say that they do not see such a thing in the near future at least. 

Especially since the climate changes are continuously worsening, it is hard to say what will be the future of Lake Mead. However, you do not need to fret. You can visit Lake Mohave as an alternative. The water levels there currently stand at 98%. On top of that, there are a bunch of attractions there that will elevate your vacation.

The serene views around the mountains and the blue lake setting still will be a perfect spot for photography. You can take out your family and go on an adventure of scuba diving to discover all that the lake holds in its depths. Set out your camp near the shore and head out for fishing with your friends. Maybe take out a kayak or a canoe to set out sail around the lake. Moreover, you can also hike, do horseriding, and even take out your bike for a drive. It is all up to you.

Up Next…

Check out some of our other lake-related articles.

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The Featured Image

Record Low Water on Lake Mead
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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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