Boulder Harbor Launch Ramp Latest Casualty of Falling Water Levels at Lake Mead

The "bathtub ring" on cliffs at Lake Mead illustrate falling water levels. Photo by byAlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker via Creative Commons and flickr.

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area water-based activities are the prime attraction, but in recent years, having enough water has become a problem. The launch area at Boulder Harbor is the latest casualty of falling lake levels, and those facilities have been closed "temporarily."

According to information from the park, water in the harbor is approximately four feet deep, and it will drop at a rate of six inches per week for the next six weeks as levels in the big lake continue to fall. By September 26 there will be about three and a half feet of water in the harbor, which is not adequate for safe operation of many boats.

Although an exact date for the closure hasn't been announced, it's imminent. The Boulder Harbor ramp will be blocked off with concrete barriers and closure signs, and the entrance to the harbor will be buoyed. The closure applies to both "launching and retrieval of boats and other watercraft at Boulder Harbor, and is officially described as "temporary." How long might it last?

According to Park Superintendent Bill Dickinson, “This temporary closure will be necessary until the lake level rises or until alternative launch facilities can be constructed." The park's announcement of the closure notes, "The NPS places high priority on maintaining public access to Lake Mead and is currently assessing the options to have a launch facility in this location open for operations when conditions improve."

"Maintaining public access" to the lake has been an expensive challenge for the NPS and park concessioners who operate marinas and other visitor use facilities at the park. As water levels continue to drop, marinas have been relocated and boat ramps have been extended, but budgets for those efforts are strained.

In April of this year, all visitor facilities at Overton Beach, on the upper end of the lake, were closed. At the lower end of the park, not far from Hoover Dam, Lake Mead Marina has moved to Hemenway Harbor and has become part of Las Vegas Boat Harbor. If you're not familiar with those locations, you'll find maps of the park at this link.

Boaters who are planning a trip to the park will find information about marinas on the park website, and lake level information, including current levels, historical data and predictions are available from a Bureau of Reclamation website.

The current lake elevation is 1085.5 feet, and the water level is projected to drop to 1082.5 feet by the end of October. For purposes of comparison, that about eight feet below the level at the same time a year ago.