After leaving the Valley of Fire, you could be back to Las Vegas in about a half hour (assuming you hopped on Interstate 15). But why do that, when you can take the long way back?
[tmt_info =””]Northshore Road runs south from the Valley of Fire, then turns southwest. It roughly parallels Interstate 15, although there are many miles of desert and mountains separating the two. Northshore Road ends at Lake Mead Parkway (AKA Lakeshore Road) which you can either take to Henderson and I-15, or to US 93 and Hoover Dam. [/tmt_info]
With a name like Northshore Road, you’d probably expect to see views like this one, mile after mile. You’d be totally wrong. For the most part, Northshore Road is out of sight of Lake Mead, even though it’s normally just a mile or two away.
After driving for a while without seeing the lake, I was starting to wonder if I was on the right road. Of course, there aren’t many roads at all out here, so I ruled that out. When I saw a sign for Stewarts Point, I turned off the nice, paved 2-lane road onto a very rough dirt road. After passing a few “vacation houses” — very rustic, to say the least — the road sort-of turned into a wide gravely area. I kept driving, and after hitting a few potentially damaging bumps in my rental car, I decided I had gone as far as I could. The view (the picture above) was worth it. Even though Lake Mead has been low in recent years, the water is still a beautiful shade of green, looking completely out of place amongst the desert surroundings.
There probably was a way to get closer to the water, but I decided I had abused my rental car enough. I slowly headed back to the main road (a couple of miles away).
For much of the drive, this is what the main road looks like. It travels along the edge of a gently-sloping mountainside…
… and on the opposite side, you see landscapes like this. There are mountains in the distance, and a whole lot of empty yet beautiful space in between. I love a solitary desert drive, and this is definitely one. Even so, the road seemed to stretch on forever, and after a while, I got a little bored with it all.
So, when I came upon another turnoff (this one paved, if I recall correctly), I took it. This time, the road led to Callville Bay, a much more populated outpost at the edge of Lake Mead. Not only did it have a marina, but also a small restaurant and gift shop! I happily purchased a cold root beer to counteract the 100-plus degree heat.
[tmt_info =””]Callville Bay is one of the closest marinas to Las Vegas, which helps explain why it’s so popular. I’ve read that it’s one of the largest inland marinas in the U.S., with somewhere between 600 and 650 slips. [/tmt_info]
As I watched the final hours of my vacation tick away, I decided I had enough time to follow Northshore Road to Lakeshore Road, and on to Hoover Dam. As I rounded Las Vegas Bay and Boulder Harbor, I found several picnic areas off the main road that provided a distant view of the lake. I suppose if you’re making a quick trip past Lake Mead, and want to say that you saw it, this view will suffice. However, there wasn’t anything special about these glorified rest areas.
I learned from my previous trip to Hoover Dam in 2004 that the best (and free) place to park is on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam. So despite the heat now topping 112o, I drove across the dam, parked, and walked back down.
I’m certain that the water levels were even lower in 2007 than they were in 2004, during my first visit.
This is a huge bypass tunnel, that would be put into use if the lake ever flooded. Judging by the current water levels, it’ll be a long time before it’s needed.
Back on the Nevada side, be sure to rub the toes of the famous art-deco bronze statues known as the Winged Figures of the Republic.
[tmt_info =””]The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation explains the artwork found at Hoover Dam here. [/tmt_info]
After one last look down into Hoover Dam, and a very hot, long walk back to the car, it was time to drive back to Las Vegas. The traditional end-of-vacation-green-chile dinner at Garduño’s helped soften the realization that another road trip had come to an end.
Note: This trip was first published in 2007.