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Black Canyon, just below Hoover Dam, is the place for river running near Las Vegas. You can launch a raft here on the Colorado River year-round. On the Arizona side, the 11-mile run to Willow Beach, with its vertical canyon walls, bighorn sheep on the slopes, and feeder streams and waterfalls coming off the bluffs, is reminiscent of rafting the Grand Canyon. The water flows at roughly 5 mph, but some rapids, eddies, and whirlpools can cause difficulties, as can headwinds, especially for inexperienced rafters.
If you want to go paddling in Black Canyon on your own, you need to make mandatory arrangements with one of the registered outfitters. They provide permits ($12) and the National Park Service entrance fee ($5) as well as launch and retrieval services. You can get a list of outfitters at 702/494-2204, or go to the paddle-craft and rafting-tours section on the Bureau of Land Management's website (www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam).
Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures. If you're interested in seeing the canyon on large motor-assisted rafts, Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures is a group excursion launching most mornings from the Hacienda Casino and Hotel. You only get wet if you want to, and a picnic lunch on the river bank is included. The trip is $88 for adults, or $33 for a half-hour "post card" tour. Depart from Hacienda Casino and Hotel, U.S. 93, Boulder City, NV, 89005. 800/455–3490. www.blackcanyonadventures.com.
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