Located on the state line between Arizona and Nevada about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Black Canyon is the canyon containing the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Formed by the Black Mountains of Arizona to the east and the Eldorado Mountains to the west, this canyon is a gorgeous maze of geological formations and wildlife. The Black Canyon Wilderness area extends to the west in Nevada, and is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Black Canyon Wilderness History and Background
Black Canyon and its many unique geological features were primarily formed by extensive volcanic activity in the region eons ago. Black Canyon Wilderness encompasses well over 17,000 acres of land, with a wide variety of landscapes and wildlife. The eastern edge is characterized by steep volcanic cliffs, while the western edge is primarily known for gentle rolling hills. This area has also seen some mining in the past, the evidence of which is still visible for those able to sustain extended hikes. Interested visitors wills also find evidence of the thousands of years of Native American habitations that preceded American presence in the region.
What’s at Black Canyon Wilderness
Primarily known as the home of the Eldorado Mountains, this rugged wilderness is also full of life if you know where to look for it. The vegetation levels vary depending upon which region of Black Canyon Wilderness you’re exploring: for example, most of the ground is covered with shrubs, Joshua trees, and cacti, but you will find more variety and more thick cover in shallower areas close to water.
Wildlife here is bountiful, clever, and adaptive enough to survive in a region where temperatures regularly reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Most common animals found in the Black Canyon Wilderness are Desert Bighorn sheep, wild burros, big cats like mountain lions and bobcats, coyotes, and jackrabbits. You’ll also find a variety of birds, including the majestic peregrine falcon and red-tailed hawk. Don’t forget about the reptiles, either! Geckos, a wide variety of lizards, and the dreaded rattlesnake all call this region of the world home.
Fans of archaeology will find much to love in the Black Canyon Wilderness. The area had been home Native Americans for thousands of years, and remnants of their past settlements are noticeable everywhere. Keep an eye out for prehistoric petroglyphs (rock carvings), large swathes of stone artifacts like tools or arrowheads, and even intaglio artwork.
In addition to the wide variety of nature wonders available for interested visitors to explore, there are also a series of hiking trails as well as the Black Canyon Water Trail, a marvelous and well-worth exploring 30-mile section of the Lower Colorado River. The trail runs from the Hoover Dam to Eldorado Canyon, and visitors can stop at the delightful Willow Beach along the way.
Tips for Visiting the Black Canyon Wilderness
- Those interested in exploring the Black Canyon Water Trail are recommended to launch from the Hoover Dam. Not all vendors are approved to launch from that site, but it provides the best views and is worth the extra effort.
- Looking for supplies or snacks? Willow Beach offers both a store and a restaurant and is a rare resupply stop along Black Canyon Water Trail.
- Much of Black Canyon Wilderness is very difficult to navigate via car (especially without 4 wheel drive), so do your research in advance before driving in the area to be sure you won’t get stuck somewhere.
- Helicopter tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon offer great views of the Black Canyon.
- Some popular areas within the Black Canyon Wilderness Area include Boy Scout Canyon (featuring some hot springs) and Burro Wash (the bottom of the Canyon).