Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run

Hells Angels is a world-wide motorcycle club. This wall mural is in Southampton, UK.
Brian Burnell photo via Wikipedia.

There were some troublesome incidents, which are fairly common at Lake Mead, but nearly all of the more than 150,000 visitors who flocked to Lake Mead National Recreation Area Labor Day weekend had lots of fun. This happy outcome was not determined by chance. National Park Service personnel went to great lengths to protect and serve park visitors, a task which included making sure that a Hells Angels biker event didn’t become disruptive.

The Lake Mead and Mohave District staff implemented an incident operations plan for handling the huge influx of visitors expected on Labor Day weekend. The plan, which provided 24-hour coverage from Friday through Monday, certainly proved necessary.

It was a very busy weekend at Lake Mead. More than 150,000 visitors showed up, and about 25% of them overnighted in the park. A severe thunderstorm, carelessness, inexperience, intoxication, and bad luck combined to produce numerous incidents. There were 390 vehicle stops and 13 alcohol-related arrests. Dispatchers received a total of 427 emergency calls. Dozens of people had to be rescued after storm-driven waves, some up to five feet, swamped many boats and sunk several. At Six Mile Cove, a 10-year old boy swimming near shore in turbulent water went under and was rescued in the nick of time. At Callville Bay Marina, the commodore of the Lake Mead Yacht Club slipped from the dock and drowned.

Gary Warshefski, Deputy Superintendent at Lake Mead, told me that the weekend went quite well, all things considered. Given the huge size of the weekend crowd, the severity of the storm that boiled up Sunday afternoon, and factors such as the very limited skills of many boaters, there could have been many more incidents and serious injuries or fatalities.

A Hells Angels poker run that was issued a permit to pass through Lake Mead during Labor Day weekend was of special concern to Lake Mead officials. The Hells Angels are one of the big four “outlaw motorcycle gangs” (the others being the Outlaws, the Pagans, and the Bandidos). As most people are aware, the Harley-riding Hells Angels got their outlaw reputation because of their habit of behaving very disruptively, and sometimes violently.

To make sure there would be an appropriate show of force, making it clear to the biker group that they would be given no slack in the park, Lake Mead officials arranged for a very strong law enforcement presence. On hand were a Park Police Special Event and Tactical Team (SETT), rangers borrowed from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Yosemite National Park, National Park Service special agents, and officers from other federal agencies. Also assisting were officers from Clark County, Las Vegas, and the nearby communities of Henderson, Boulder City, and Hoover Dam. Thanks to the good work of the SETT and other enforcement officers, the Hells Angels poker run, which involved about 150 bikers, was minimally disruptive.


A lot of people are scared of the Hells Angels, but I have to say that the 2 times my family and I have stumbled into one of their rallys they have been very well behaved. Better behaved then the regular tourists around them. In 2006 we arrived in Cody, Wyoming for the July 4th weekend, only to discover to our surprise that there was a Hells Angels rally. We were camping with Hells Angels members literally on all sides. My husband was none to happy, given their reputation and proximity to our children, but we had absolutely no problems. At the rodeo, a must see if your ever in Cody for the 4th of July, the bikers even tried bull riding which was hysterical. I do realize that the Hells Angels have earned their reputation due to bad behavior in the past, but the two recent times we've experienced a rally, they have been more peaceful and well mannered then the regular tourist crowd and absolutely nothing to panic about.

I feel a whole lot safer being near the Hell's Angels than I ever would being in close proximity to the jack-booted visor helmeted thugs that I saw on television who were providing "security" for the two Welfare/Warfare conventions this past August.

Or as Dylan most famously put it: [i]"To live outside the law you must be honest."

Lots of people have had very positive interactions with Hells Angels, Marylander. And many others have been bullied, assaulted, and even physically harmed. These are Hells Angels, not Hells Pussycats. (If you know who the Hells Angels "One-Percenters" are, you know that they are some of the baddest dudes on this planet.)

Yes, Hells Angels are usually well-behaved in public. But law enforcement officials aren't sure what to expect when Hells Angels are around, so they prepare for the worst. I thank them for that, and if Hells Angels feelings get hurt, so be it. When you join the Hells Angels you are making a statement. I just wish that the Hells Angels members whose behavior inclines to the plus side of the ledger would be more choosy about the company they keep.

In the Lake Mead instance reported here, there was intelligence (the precise details of which aren't available to you and me) indicating that the Hells Angels wanted to make repeated forays into the park and vicinity in the future. The park welcomed them (by issuing an event permit), but the very strong and conspicuous law enforcement presence told them they had better understand that the welcome is conditioned by an expectation of non-disruptive behavior -- period, end of discussion.

I hope law enforcement personnel wrote thank-you letters to the Hells Angels and their events promoter !

The thank-you is appreciation for giving them "job security" and probably "overtime pay." Law enforcement hired to assist at Lake Mead over Labor Day weekend should include thanking the Hells Angels for providing colorful and quality material to work with!

Ride on...


Beamis quoted Dylan:

"To live outside the law you must be honest."
... And to that I will add the comparable observation:
"An armed society is a polite society."

In referring to the Hell's Angels, I guess by "honest", Dylan meant "trafficking drugs" so it should read "To live outside the law you must be trafficking drugs." But as long as they don't bother you and your family that's all that matters.