A bit of Nevada

Length of stay:1 day
Visited: January 2023

Nevada is the driest state in the United States. It boasts of providing endless entertainment with plenty of casinos, shows and events, and has a vibrant nightlife. It also contains deserts, mountains and dramatic rock formations, offering plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

We flew into Las Vegas to take a road trip through southern Utah to hit up the “Mighty Five” national parks and circled back through northern Arizona. We unfortunately didn’t spend much time in Nevada. We briefly saw some attractions, like the Hoover Dam on the drive to Death Valley.

The Hoover Dam is a concrete dam situated in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River on the border between Nevada and Arizona. It was built during the Great Depression as a way to stimulate the economy and provide jobs. It is considered an engineering marvel, but almost a hundred people died during its construction.

We didn’t have enough time to take a tour of the dam, but we figured we should at least check out an overlook of it. There’s a parking lot located just off the highway with a path that leads up a series of steps to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is reputed to provide the best views of the Hoover Dam.

Once we circled back to the parking lot, we continued driving along the road to get a better look at the bridge. While there are a few parking lots here, these all required a fee to enter. Since it was still early in the morning and there wasn’t any traffic (or anyone around), we simply stopped in the middle of the road to quickly hop out and take some pictures of the bridge, along with the dam on one side and Lake Mead on the other side.

On the drive back towards the highway, we made another quick detour to check out an overlook of Lake Mead, a reservoir that was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam. It is the largest reservoir in the United States. However its water levels have been drastically dropping over the past couple of decades and reached a record low in 2022.

On the last day of our vacation we planned to visit the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area before heading to the airport. The conservation area features impressive red rock formations and has become a popular spot for hiking and climbing. To prevent overcrowding, timed reservations are now required to visit the main part of the park. While our national parks pass covered the entrance fee, there was still a small processing fee to reserve our time slot. Given that we planned to visit first thing on a Monday morning, we figured it wouldn’t be very busy and could just flash our pass when we got there.

We arrived at the main gate for Red Rock Canyon a few minutes before it opened at 8am. There was already a line of cars along the side of the road. After waiting for about 15 minutes, we noticed that none of the cars were actually moving. After waiting a bit more, we went out to investigate. It turns out that part of the scenic drive was washed out due to heavy rain overnight and the visitor centre lost power. They weren’t letting anyone in.

We decided to go for a short hike along the Middle Oak Creek Trail, which is located nearby. There’s a small parking lot off of State Route 159 that provides access to the trailhead. The path meanders through the desert landscape to Oak Creek Canyon, which provided a great opportunity to see some of the different types of plants found in this extreme environment.

After hiking along the path for about 20 minutes, we decided to turn around as the ground was a bit too wet for our liking. The timing worked out well as right when we got back to the car, it started to pour. We drove back to the main entrance of Red Rock Canyon and were surprised to see that it was now open. The person at the main gate gave us a bit of a hard time as we didn’t actually reserve our tickets in advance, but given that the power was still out, he waved us through.

This part of the park features a one-way scenic drive that is 21 kilometres (or 13 miles) long. There are several viewpoints and trails along the way. There is a visitor centre at the start of the scenic drive, but it was still closed since the power was out. It was still lightly raining outside, so we decided to just hit up some of the viewpoints of the sandstone rocks, starting with Calico Basin.

We stopped at a few other viewpoints, but then the rain got worse. There was even some hail.

Oh, and flooding. There was a ranger parked along the side of the road that said we should be fine to drive through the river that had now taken over the road. She also said they’d be closing the scenic drive again so if we leave, we will not be able to return. Fine by us as we had no interest in hiking in these conditions. And here we thought the desert would be dry!

And so we drove back to Las Vegas and got ready to head home.


83 thoughts on “A bit of Nevada

  1. photobyjosephciras says:

    It has been a while since I have been to that area. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was not built yet. I did tour the dam. We were able to go into the dam and peak out of it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s funny because the Hoover Dam wasn’t even on our itinerary. We were driving from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley and the overlook was right off the highway. When we passed the sign, we weren’t sure what to expect, but decided to give it a whirl and stretch our legs. It was definitely worth the stop. Taking a tour sounds like a great way to get a sneak peak of the inside.

  2. kagould17 says:

    A good finish. We did the dam tour years back with the kids. As they say, it’s the Best Dam Tour in Nevada. Too bad about Red Rock Canyon. There are some beautiful trails to hike there. You managed to capture the esssence of the desert nonetheless. Great trip and series of posts Linda. Thanks for sharing. Have a great Thursday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. All good things must come to an end. It’s too bad the weather on our final day was miserable, but in some ways that made it easier to leave. I had no interest in exploring the trails at Red Rock Canyon in the torrential downpour. couldn’t help but laugh at the Best Dam Tour line. So good. Have a happy Fri-YAY. Take care, Linda.

  3. Laura says:

    I loved seeing all of these photos- the ones from Oak Creek Canyon are so unique! The landscapes you visited on this road trip were truly incredible and otherworldly- did you have a favourite?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The Oak Creek Canyon wasn’t even on our list, but we weren’t sure what else to do with the scenic drive through Red Rock Canyon closed. It was a great way to see more of the cacti and desert shrubbery up close. It’s hard to pick a favourite out of all the places we visited on our road trip as the landscape through the different parks was so different. I really enjoyed the national parks in southern Utah. The arches at Arches were pretty cool, Angels Landing in Zion was another highlight, and we enjoyed having the trails all to ourselves at Capitol Reef.

  4. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Wonderful photos and the written lines lovely 🌹🙏👍🏻 the river, huge rocks , incredible dam view ,
    Varieties of plants 🌱 and gorgeous nature to view, so inspiring and grace wishes dear friend ♥️👏

  5. Lyssy In The City says:

    Who would’ve thought there would be flooding to worry about! I flew into Vegas when I visited Zion and seeing all the slots in the casino was so strange to me, but I guess it’s a good way for people to pass time haha

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know, we were not expecting all that rain given Nevada’s reputation for being the driest state. It was crazy to see all that flooding along the road. We didn’t go to any casinos while we were in Las Vegas, but there were slot machines in the airport, which also seemed strange. I’m sure people thought we were strange to fly to Las Vegas to go hiking. To each their own I guess!

  6. John says:

    Wow! Fabulous photos of my favorite place here! Isn’t this place incredibly beautiful? You’ve been to all of my favorite stomping grounds here. Did you stop and look down into red Rock Canyon proper? That thing is so amaaaazing! I’m glad you enjoyed it. The canyon is about 20 minutes from my house! Lake Meas has filled about two feet from all of the rain we’ve had in recent months. Sorry I missed you guys!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s too bad about the rainy weather when we visited Red Rock Canyon. We mostly just drove along the scenic road and didn’t get out of the car much given the torrential downpour. So we didn’t actually get to see down into Rock Canyon proper. I also really wanted to visit the Valley of Fire State Park, but we ran out of time. Next time!

  7. grandmisadventures says:

    I think too often people assume that there’s nothing more to Nevada than Vegas and they miss out on the incredible beauty of the desert and the ingenuity of the dam. Loved joining you on this visit to this corner of the state 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s what we initially thought too, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that there’s a lot more to see and explore in Nevada. We just needed a few more days though. We had a great preview despite the rain.

  8. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    I’m sorry your visit to Red Rock Canyon was rained out, but I’m so glad that part of Nevada got some rain! As you said, Lake Mead is very low, and they need every drop they can get. We live in a drought-stricken area in West Texas, and the possibility of not having water is a scary thought. Thank you for a wonderful tour of this “not Las Vegas” area of Nevada.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know what you mean. It’s never ideal to have rain while on vacation. But clearly this area is in desperate need of more water. And hey, it makes for an interesting story about having to drive through a flooded road in the driest state in the US! Not having water is definitely a scary thought.

  9. wetanddustyroads says:

    You have beautiful photos of the Hoover Dam here Linda! The definite colour differences in the rocks are beautiful. You saw beautiful plants on your unplanned hike (that Plan B that sometimes works out so well 😉). And I’m glad you finally got to enter the park … even if it was just to see the desert getting wet – I think that’s pretty special too!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The desert landscape in Nevada is very colourful. The vegetation here is completely different to what we have back home in Ontario. It was neat to see so many cacti. It’s too bad about all the rain, but I’m sure it was well needed. And it does make for an interesting story! I’m glad we at least saw some of Red Rock Canyon. Enough to know that we’d love to come back.

  10. brandib1977 says:

    Oh my! Who knew that flooding might be an issue in that area? Seems like the opposite of what you would expect! All the same, this sounds like another grand adventure!

  11. ourcrossings says:

    What a wonderful place to explore, Linda! The size of the Hoover Dam is something else and it’s clear Hoover Dam is one of America’s wonders and truly an engineering marvel. Given that it offers stunning views and fascinating insight there’s no surprise that it has become a thriving tourist destination on top of being a functioning power plant. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We weren’t actually planning on visiting the Hoover Dam, but saw a sign for the overlook while we were driving and decided to pull over to check it out. I’m glad we did as it’s quite impressive. It was also great timing since it was early in the morning and there weren’t many people around, so we could drive across the dam and get out and take a few pictures. There’s no way we could have done that otherwise. Thanks for reading Aiva. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Take care, Linda.

  12. leightontravels says:

    You guys certainly weren’t short of challenges when it came to the elements! What a minefield, but you handled it all well and even got a bit of luck thrown in by avoiding getting drenched. Your shots of Hoover Dam are every bit as dramatic as I have seen elsewhere online, how we would love to see it one day. I also love your first photo of Middle Oak Creek Trail, with the mist hanging low in the background. Not what you had expected then, but still quite the adventure.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! We didn’t even pack any of our rain gear as we figured the odds of it raining in the desert would be pretty low. At least we were able to go on a short hike and drive through Red Rock Canyon to get a sneak peak of the colourful landscape. It’s funny because we weren’t even planning on visiting the Hoover Dam. We saw a sign for it on the highway along the drive to Death Valley and figured we might as well stop and give in a whirl. You win some, you lose some.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s too funny! Great minds think alike! It’s too bad about the weather though. We would have loved to spend more time at Red Rock Canyon, but didn’t have any interest in hiking in the rain, especially since our suitcase was packed at that point.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The colourful desert landscape in Nevada is breathtaking. We wished we could have stayed for longer. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Linda

  13. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    It seems like you had a good trip and your photos have been fantastic. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. The photos you have posted here with the thick grey clouds in background are very dramatic. Thanks for a great tour.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We had a wonderful road trip through part of southwestern United States. It’s too bad about the gloomy weather on our final day of vacation though. At least it made for some interesting pictures. I can’t say we’ve ever driven across a flooded road before either!

  14. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Red Rock Canyon conservation centre looks stunning Linda. I don’t think we went there on our way back to Las Vegas but we did see Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Had one and a half days in Las Vegas on our arrival which was plenty as it’s not really our sort of place. Like you we prefer the national parks but was interesting to experience.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape in Nevada is more scenic than we were expecting and the state has so much more to offer than just gambling and partying in Las Vegas (which isn’t our sort of thing either). It’s too bad that it was so rainy when we visited Red Rock Canyon so we mostly just drove through the park to admire the red rocks. We’d love to return to see more of the state parks in Nevada and explore southern California. Next time.

  15. Bama says:

    It’s crazy how the weather went from clear blue skies to rolling grey clouds. I feel that along the Middle Oak Creek Trail somehow your photos of the plants really pop! This creates a dramatic effect to the entire landscape. It’s very sobering to see the water line at Lake Mead. Water shortage has become a serious problem for a growing number of places across the globe now.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. We were not expecting any rain when visiting the driest state in the United States. We didn’t even bother to pack any rain gear. Despite the gloomy weather, I’m glad we got to see more of the desert landscape. Water scarcity is definitely becoming more problematic, especially given all these extreme weather events that seem to be the new normal.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Our visit to the Hoover Dam was rather spontaneous. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but when we passed a sign for it while driving to Death Valley, we couldn’t resist checking it out. And yes, we were not expecting a torrential downpour while visiting the driest state in the United States. Go figure! At least we were in our car and not out on a trail.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. We didn’t spend much time in Nevada, but what we did manage to see, we enjoyed. The landscape was more scenic than we were expecting. And the Hoover Dam was pretty incredible.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. There’s definitely more to see in Nevada than just Las Vegas. We unfortunately didn’t spend much time here, but I’m glad we made a couple of stops to check out some of the highlights.

  16. Starling Fajãzinha says:

    Amazing and impressive landscape that I have never experienced. I was very impressed by the low levels of water in the photos of the reservoir.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was alarming to see and hear about just how low the water levels are in Lake Mead. This past summer the lake reached its lowest they have ever been since it was constructed in the 1930s.

  17. Ab says:

    Very interesting to get a wet experience in the desert! You always luck out with these unique moments. 🙂

    We did visit Hoover Dam during our Britney Spears escape to Vegas almost 10 years ago. I found it pretty cool and we were lucky to have done the tour.

    It is very sobering to see how low the water levels are now at Lake Mead. It should be a wake up call for more water conservation efforts.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hahaha no kidding! We didn’t even bother to pack our rain gear! Oh well, it at least makes for an interesting story. I’ve heard great things about the Hoover Dam tour. If only we had a bit more time! I guess this means we’ll just have to return someday.

      And agreed, it was alarming to see and hear about just how low the water levels in Lake Mead were this past summer. But here’s the thing, it’s not like there was a big drop overnight. Water levels have been consistently declining over the past couple of decades. You’re absolutely right about how more can (and should) be done in terms of water conservation efforts.

      • Ab says:

        I think when I look at Lake Mead it makes me think about a potential dystopian future when access to water will be a fight. Let’s hope it doesn’t get there.

        Happy Tuesday! 😊😆

  18. Little Old World says:

    The Hoover is an incredible structure and you got great views of it from the bridge and the road. I love your photos of the desert plants, too, they really pop with the gloomy clouds behind them.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We were a bit short on time, but I’m glad we were able to see the Hoover Dam in person and to learn more about its construction. I was so fascinated with all the different types of plants found in the desert. The vegetation is so different compared to what we have back home in Canada.

  19. TCKlaire says:

    Drought is a serious issue in that area. But what you said about flooding reminded me of The Day We Should Have Had The Accident. I had the same feelings of a desert should be dry, but my Dad and I caught it at an extremely wet time. Hope you didn’t see any car accidents because of the rain

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was shocking to see the huge drop in the water levels at Lake Mead. We certainly were not expecting to get any rain while we were in the desert and didn’t end up packing any rain gear with us. It was wild to see flooding across the road. Thankfully we were out and about early on a weekday morning so there weren’t many other people around as I can see these conditions causing delays and potentially accidents.

      • TCKlaire says:

        Yep. I got the impression that people who live in deserts forget how to drive in rain, and of course, the roads get slippery when it rains after being dry for a long time. That’s what happened on The Day We Should Have Had The Accident

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s the same here when it comes to snow, which is surprising since we live in Canada. It’s shocking how many cars we see on the highway who don’t even have snow tires. It should be a requirement in the winter.

  20. Bernie says:

    Hoover Dam seems pretty impressive even in photos. It is quite something how dry Lake Mead is. As to the dessert drive/walk it sure looks quite a bit like the area around Palm Springs… and when it rains there there is no escape and the water strangely runs away to the roads. Just finally catching up on your last posts of your trip! A little behind in my reading. Bernie

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Hoover Dam is quite the sight. It wasn’t initially on our itinerary, but since we were driving through the area to get to Death Valley, we figured we might as well stop to check it out. I’m glad we did. It’s too bad about the gloomy weather on our last day on vacation, but I’m just happy we weren’t on a hike when it started to rain. It was pretty wild to see how quickly the conditions changed. I can easily see why flash flooding is an issue here in the desert.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know! We didn’t even bother to pack any rain gear as we figured the odds of it raining in the desert were pretty low. I’m just glad we weren’t out for a hike when it started to rain. It sounds like the area is in desperate need of some rain though considering how low the water levels were at Lake Mead.

      • rkrontheroad says:

        It’s an ongoing, worsening problem. As you probably know, there are people from states along the Colorado River meeting to take measures to conserve.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s too bad that it took so long for them to start having these conservations. I was looking at a graph that showed how the water levels have changed in Lake Mead over time and it’s not like it happened over night. Hopefully the conservation efforts help.

      • rkrontheroad says:

        Unfortunately, humans are way too late to find solutions to climate change crises. If scientists could make these decision, rather than politicians, we’d be in much better shape.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. It’s a shame the government can’t be more proactive and instead tends to react to a situation when it becomes an issue. And sometimes their efforts are not enough or come far too late to be meaningful. I’d much rather listen to policies proposed by scientists than politicians too!

  21. BrittnyLee says:

    It was smart to avoid the fees and just grab shots passing by. I could imagine some of the fees were probably high. Those heights are incredible. I can’t envision myself standing up there looking down without holding onto something. Beautiful but wow high !

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I’m so glad we are early risers and were able to drive through the area first thing in the morning when no one else was around, otherwise I doubt we would have been able to pull over for a few pictures. It was neat to see the Hoover Dam from the different vantage points. It is pretty impressive.

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