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Boating Is Alive and Well on Lake Mead

Lower water levels haven't reduced lake access.

July 23, 2014
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Lake Mead

Watch the news or check your favorite information website and you’ll see stories about the water levels on Nevada’s Lake Mead being the lowest since 1930. Is the situation serious? Yes. Should we be aware of it? Yes.

But recreational boaters should also know that they can still enjoy the lake. “It affects us because of all the bad publicity. The press scares away the boaters because everybody thinks there’s no water left,” said Bob Gripentog, General Manager of Las Vegas Boat Harbor, which, along with their other business, Lake Mead Marina, has 1,400 slips being used by boaters on the lake. “We still have 550 miles of shoreline, and you can still run 100 miles in one direction,” he added.

By early July 2014 the lake dropped to 1,081feet above sea level, leaving the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam at 39 percent full, which is the lowest since 1930. The last time the lake was full was in 1998, when it was 1,296 feet above sea level.

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The biggest obstacle to getting on the lake in 2014 is that the launch ramps now extend past the paved or concrete surfaces and into the mud or sand, so it’s a little more challenging to launch, but the rangers are keeping the ramps open so people can still go boating.

“It’s not a huge reduction in boating availability,” said Gripentog. “Our water is still up to 400 feet deep. There’s still lots of water our here.”

He explained that Lake Mead is a basin-based body of water with its Upper, Lower and Greg basins and that the overall loss of usable water is maybe a quarter-mile in each basin. He warned that boaters checking out a cove for the first time will want to do so at low speeds and be careful so they don’t strike submerged objects. As ironic as it sounds, the lower water level could be better for boating because you can find more secluded coves where you can beach your boat.

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At the start of the 2014 season, the water level in Lake Mead dropped 3 feet in a week and then 10 feet in a month, which resulted in an increase in banged-up propellers, but that situation has since stabilized, said Gripentog.

Despite the fact that the big white alkali stripe along the Lake Mead shoreline looks dramatic in photos in USA Today, he added that if you took an aerial picture of the entire lake, you wouldn’t see a big difference in the amount of water available to boaters.

“A lot of people are thinking they can’t use their boats,” said Gripentog. “But they can still come to Vegas and boat.”

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