The Beauty of the Journey to Emerald Cave

By Lauren Wong
This story was original posted on Escape With Vagary.

You’ll have to hop on a kayak to see this hidden gem. Located about two miles from Willow Beach in Lake Mead, National Recreation Area, you’ll find this hollowed out opening in the canyon as you float along the Black Canyon Water Trail in the Colorado River. It’s not until you paddle yourself inside what appears to be just a little hole in the wall, that you’ll see this natural phenomenon.

You know those cheesy sayings where they say ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?’ Honestly, that’s exactly how it was during my tour with River Dogz. I can’t say arriving at the cave was the highlight of my Emerald Cave 3 Hour Kayak Tour. I’ve never seen Lake Mead, or explored up north by the Arizona, Nevada border and the whole trip I was simply in awe.

The water was so clear that the whole time you could see straight to the bottom. We even spotted some fish. At first glance the water’s very dark, but once you’re above it and the water stills, you can look down and see everything. Even before arriving at Emerald Cave you’ll see this green, glistening tint in the water as the sun shines down on it.

The cave is what exemplifies this and offers the best views. You’ll kayak inside the cove and turn around to see this emerald water that is literally sparkling as it gleams in the sun. It’s like flashing white spots of glitter over the illuminating water. This natural beauty is a result of the algae and the way the light shines through the 900-foot canyon walls, reflecting off the crystal clear water of the Colorado River.

I stayed at the Hoover Dam Lodge in Boulder City, Nevada which was about 30 minutes up from our launch spot. The whole drive the day before had been at night, so all I could see was the few feet ahead of me that my headlights allowed. The second I opened my blinds from my hotel room the next day I swear, it looked like we had landed on Mars.

With such a vast, barren, rocky terrain and almost no buildings in sight, it truly did feel otherworldly. The pop of color from the still blue water of the Hoover Dam contrasting against its bare background. The aura felt peaceful, yet eerie at the same time.

I went on the tour in December so the downside was it was a little bit chilly, but on the plus side, the river wasn’t as populated. I just layered up, which is difficult when you’re getting water splashed on you as you paddle, but on top of all my layers I wore a rain jacket and rain pants, so I was pretty comfortable throughout. As long as you have a waterproof jacket on top of all your layers you should be good. If you go in the hotter months you can wear a suit and jump in.

Along the way you’ll learn some history of the landscape around you and take a short hike after stopping for some snacks and water provided by your guide. “The house has been there since the late 20’s and burned down prior to 1968 when it, the cable carts, catwalk, and gauging station were all added to the national registry of historical places,” Preston Acuff, tour guide, explained.

What exactly is a gauging station? It was a station built that allowed them to measure the flow of the Colorado River. This is where they did their work and the small square metal room hangs on the side of a vertical cliff about 50 feet above the water. The bucket tramway cars that hang from cables across the river are still there today. This is what they used, in addition to a trail, catwalk, and third tramway that extended across the canyon to the residence and garage. On our hike we went on during our snack break, you get the chance to see the ruins of what was once their home.

Being a big outdoorsman, Acuff spends most of his time outdoors, during work and after. “I feel blessed to be able to spend each day at work on the water,” Acuff says. “I get the ability to meet new people from all over the world daily. It’s a beautiful office.”

River Dogz offers hotel pickup from some Las Vegas hotels so if you’re on vacation and don’t have a car, this tour is definitely worth checking out. They make it as easy for you as possible. “It’s a great escape from the craziness of Las Vegas and the strip,” Acuff  says. “Not only that, but it’s a good way to get some exercise on vacation, paddle on the Colorado River, and spend some time around the mountains.”

In addition to their half-day tour, they offer a full day tour where you’ll get to see the Hoover Dam, a Fish Hatchery, you’ll take the short hike up to the historical site of River Gauger’s home, the famous Emerald Cove (of course), Sandy Beach, and Falcon Cave. This tour is 12 miles long versus the 4 miles of the half day. Going on the full day tour is my next bucket list item. I think this time though, I’ll go when it’s a bit warmer.

If you’re unsure what to bring, under each guided kayak tour they’ve created a little check list for you so you know everything you need to be prepared.

Visit River Dogz website to see all the different excursions they offer and book your experience! 


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