Sep 15, 2022

What Makes the Emerald Cave Green?

kayaking in the emerald cave

The mighty Colorado River is home to Nevada's many natural wonders, from breathtaking hot springs and mesmerizing wildlife to caves and historical landmarks. Emerald Cave (also called Emerald Cove), Las Vegas' own Emerald City, takes adventurers to a remarkable destination straight out of a fairy tale. Paddle through the Colorado River and witness the cave's magical green waters! You’ve never seen anything in Vegas like this.

Wait, Why is the Water Green? 

Great question! Emerald Cave is known for its sparkling green waters. The sunlight, water, algae, and brown rock walls all contribute to a natural phenomenon that results in this stunning color. It happens when the sun shines at a specific angle, with the light reflecting off of the brownish canyon walls and blue-green algae under the water. Ultimately, it makes the cave light up green.

Although Emerald Cave looks beautiful all year round, its waters are not brilliant green the entire day. Early afternoon is often the best time to explore the cave. Still, lighting and weather patterns around the cave are ever-changing. Go on a guided kayak tour of Emerald Cave for a safe and perfectly timed excursion. Your guide will help you to make the most of your adventure.  

Green waters of Emerald Cave in Las Vegas

What is Emerald Cave? 

Emerald Cave is a located at the heart of the Black Canyon along the Arizona side of the Colorado River and a few miles from the Hoover Dam. It's tucked away in towering canyon walls, a hidden gem in Las Vegas visited by thousands of tourists from all over because of its picture-perfect, blue-green, 24-foot deep waters.

The challenge? The cave is only accessible via kayaks and other small boats due to its small opening and tight passageways. (Speedboats are a no-go.) But the journey is worth it! It’s also part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, making it an incredible destination for solo travelers, families, and friends. There is no shortage of fun activities to participate in at Lake Mead.

After exploring Emerald Cave, tourists can hike, swim, camp, fish, paddle board, sightsee, and take photographs of the thriving flora and fauna. Whether you’re visiting for the day or need to fill an entire weekend, you won’t run out of things to do.

Kayaking Emerald  Cave in las vegas

You're welcome to visit Emerald Cave any time of the year. However, do bear in mind that traveling outdoors during summer requires careful preparation due to the extreme temperatures, which can well exceed 100 degrees. Warmer months also draw bigger crowds, so you’ll want to book a guided kayak tour in advance and secure your spot. Some paddlers prefer winter and fall for cooler weather and more cloud coverage. (Plus, you really get to enjoy those hot springs.)

Whatever time of year you opt for, ensure you’re wearing plenty of SPF and protecting your face and head with sunglasses and a hat. Wear secure shoes that can’t slide off, and avoid clothing that has a hard time drying (like cotton). Remember, too, that lifejackets are required by law.

How to Get to Emerald Cave

Trips to the Emerald Cave usually start from Willow Beach — a location worthy of your attention even if you have no plans to visit the Emerald Cave after. Paddling this route is a challenging and fulfilling experience, with frequent stops to explore the wonders of the Black Canyon Water Trail. Planning a short adventure to Emerald Cave? A mere three- to four-hour trip is enough to witness the beauty of Emerald Cave and the Colorado River.

hot springs in Las Vegas, NV

Launch from Willow Beach, an accessible recreation area just an hour from the Strip. Emerald Cave is not far from this popular adventure spot. It can take longer, though, as there are many remote beaches, historical sites, and swimming spots to explore along the way that you won’t want to miss.

Since Willow Beach is located within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, visitors should purchase a pass to enter. Or, paddle with Evolution Expeditions and we’ll take care of it for you. Paddling your way to Emerald Cave from this beach also means covering a segment of the Black Canyon Water Trail where you can pause once in a while to observe wildlife, swim, and revel in the cave's green waters. 

What's the Best Way to Experience Emerald Cave? 

Ready to plan your Emerald Cave adventure?

Emerald Cave can only be explored by a small boat that can efficiently traverse narrow passageways. Some prefer canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, but kayaking remains the top choice for many travelers who go to Emerald Cave since they’re easier to control and steer.

Kayaks are slim and small and usually carry only one or two people (also called tandem kayaking). Depending on the type of kayak, they are also easy to learn, transport, and maneuver. Kayaking is undoubtedly the best way to explore Emerald Cave, especially for beginner kayakers.

At Evolution Expeditions, our seasoned guides can help you learn basic paddling techniques, emergency responses, and safety rules to ensure a fun, exciting kayaking experience. Because our tours usually consist of beginner paddlers, we use fast and lightweight kayaks for easier steering. They also have rudders to keep the boat running straight.

Kayak Emerald Cave and Colorado River with Us

Evolution Expeditions have two Emerald Cave kayaking tours: the Deluxe and Express trips. The former is a four-hour kayaking journey with a catered lunch, while the latter is a bit shorter at three hours, with complimentary snacks. Both tours begin at Willow Beach Marina and are perfect for beginners and advanced kayakers. Our guides know Emerald Cave like the backs of their hands. Join us and experience the magical emerald ambiance you won’t find elsewhere in Nevada.

Emerald Cave is just the highlight of an awe-inspiring cruise along the Colorado River. Going on a self-guided kayaking tour is amazing, but nothing beats being in the company of an experienced guide and like-minded folks and learning more about the place’s history as you paddle around. Book your guided kayaking tour with Evolution Expeditions today and experience a totally new side of Mother Nature in Las Vegas.

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