Mar 15, 2022

Visiting Emerald Cave on Lake Mead

When people think of Las Vegas, oftentimes, their minds immediately go to the Strip — and understandably! But although we’re the entertainment capital of the world, there’s much more to Sin City than neon lights and blackjack. Not too far away is the Lake Mead Recreation Area, which contains a unique gem of its own: Emerald Cave. And it’s one of the best places to kayak in Las Vegas.

Let’s talk more about the logistics and what you can expect when you visit Emerald Cave on Lake Mead.

Where is Emerald Cave in the Lake Mead Area?

Lake Mead is America’s first national recreation area. It spans a mammoth stretch of 1.5 million acres, encapsulating mountains, valleys, canyons, lakes, and — we couldn’t forget — the Hoover Dam. Sure, Las Vegas is a desert… dry, arid, and hot as heck. But believe it or not, we do have beautiful bodies of water to explore.

woman kayaking Hoover Dam in Las Vegas, Nevada

In and of itself, Lake Mead is a jewel that isn’t to be missed. But there’s more here than meets the eye. Lake Mead also contains sections of the Colorado River, including Black Canyon. And it’s down this 26-mile stretch of river that you’ll find canyons, natural hot springs, jagged cliffs, and — you guessed it — Emerald Cave.

How Do You Get There?

From the Las Vegas Strip, it takes about an hour to get to Black Canyon. If you kayak Emerald Cave with Evolution Expeditions, we start our tour in the morning at Willow Beach Marina, which is technically in Arizona, and this is where our adventure begins. Willow Beach is an entry point in Lake Mead. It’s about two miles from Emerald Cave, making it a common starting point for eager kayakers.

We want to emphasize that your guided kayak tour is about so much more than kayaking and even Emerald Cave. We’ll visit remote beaches for swimming and sunbathing. And the wildlife along the Nevada and Arizona shorelines will give you memories of a lifetime. Desert bighorn sheep, falcons, ospreys, bald eagles, and great blue herons will be resting in their natural habitats, making for the perfect photo opportunities.

Kayakers in Emerald Cave, Lake Mead

Why is Lake Mead’s Emerald Cave Green?

This is the million-dollar question! This natural phenomenon is just one of the reasons why you should kayak Emerald Cave.

Resting under the surface of the Colorado River is a generous layer of algae. What happens is the sun bursts through the 900-foot canyon walls and then reflects off of the crystal clear water. The result is a beautiful, radiant, emerald green light that shines all around you.

Mother Nature really did us a favor with Emerald Cave. It’s almost like escaping into another world.

Can You Kayak Emerald Cave on Lake Mead on Your Own?

You can, but this isn’t something we recommend. It takes an experienced tour guide to get you to Emerald Cave. The cave lights up green only at certain times of the day. So, to enjoy the best experience, it’s optimal to go with someone who can really show you the ropes. And importantly, this is also a safety issue. Should you exit your kayak and need help getting back in, or if your vessel flips, or if the weather suddenly turns, your guide will know what to do.

Some visitors contemplate enjoying Emerald Cave via other transportation, like a motorboat. But the cave itself isn’t the appropriate size for this, and navigating it in anything other than a kayak (or something similar in size, like a canoe or SUP) is going to make it incredibly difficult — or impossible. Generally, Emerald Cave can fit two to three kayaks at a time, which is great for visitors because you get a more intimate experience. Kayaks are quick and nimble, which is why we recommend them for seeing the very best of Emerald Cave.

Kayakers paddling Emerald Cave in Lake Mead

What Level Kayaker Do You Need to Be to Get to Emerald Cave?

Another great question! Because the waters are very calm, this kayak tour is appropriate for beginner kayakers (including children) and seasoned experts alike. Your tour guide will ensure that you follow all basic kayaking protocols (like wearing a life jacket) and get to Emerald Cave safe and sound. You can always split the workload with a friend and opt for a tandem kayak, too.

How Do You Book a Kayak Tour of Emerald Cave in Lake Mead?

We thought you’d never ask.

Evolution Expeditions offers two guided kayak tours to Emerald Cave: the express tour (which lasts about three hours and goes four miles) and the extended tour (which lasts roughly four hours, goes up to six miles, and includes lunch and a stop at the beach). Both give you a flawless view and inside experience of Emerald Cave and everything else the area has to offer. If you’re looking more for the full experience, we recommend the extended kayak trip so you can really enjoy everything Emerald Cave and the rest of Black Canyon have to offer.

You can trust that your guide will take good care of you. Safety is our top priority. All of our guides have current WFA certificates, and Evolution Expeditions runs the most extensive guide training in the area. We’re well-versed in kayak rescues, emergency response, and knowledge of the history and area.

Ready to put on your life jacket and get paddling? Learn more about all of our available guided kayak tours in Las Vegas, and book your adventure today!

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