Boaters at Lake Mead National Recreation Area will need to pay much closer attention to their fuel supplies after the first of February—the Echo Bay Marina is ending operations. That leaves boaters on the huge lake's Overton Arm without any sources of water-based fuel or other marine services.
Concessioner-operated services and facilities at Echo Bay have been on a downward path for several years, victims of a pair of foes: the general economic downturn and fluctuating water levels in Lake Mead.
No Takers On A New Contract for Echo Bay Concession
For the past three years, services at Echo Bay have been provided by Forever Resorts under a temporary contract that expires January 31, 2013. That contract included operation of a 365-slip marina, fuel dock, small boat rental, motel, restaurant, retail, land based fuel, dry boat storage, administration, maintenance and small boat repair, long-term trailer village and an RV park.
The motel and restaurant were closed in 2010 at the request of the concessioner because of facility and economic conditions.
The National Park Service issued a prospectus for a new Echo Bay contract on October 31, 2012. According to a park spokesperson, "while some interest was expressed, no one submitted a proposal."
"The current concessioner was not interested in continuing full operations at Echo Bay, but even if they were, the park has no legal authority to extend the temporary contract under which they operated," said Bill Dickinson, park superintendent
"It is unfortunate that no one submitted a proposal," said Dickinson. "Our long-term plan is to maintain visitor access and commercial services on the Overton Arm. "We have invested millions of dollars to improve the northern area of the park because we are committed to ensuring our visitors who access Lake Mead within the Overton Arm have a quality experience," he said.
NPS Working to Continue Some Land-Based Concessioner Services
Although the park isn't able to maintain operations at the marina, management is working to amend an existing contract within Lake Mead NRA that authorizes similar land-based trailer, storage and fueling services. The goal is to add the Echo Bay trailer village, RV campsites, dry boat storage and land-based fuel station to that contract.
Dickinson said proposals for a new concession contract might not have been submitted because of a concern about the economic feasibility of the operation. "Revenues have dropped over the past few years due in part to the recession and declining water levels," he added.
The park has developed an Echo Bay Management Transition Team to address the future of the area. In addition to the loss of visitor services, approximately 100 boat owners who lease space at Echo Bay Marina on a month-to-month basis will be impacted by the closure. Without a concessioner, the slips can no longer be leased. The transition team is assisting boat owners who would like to relocate to another marina in the recreation area.
"It is unfortunate that we have to ask people to leave the Echo Bay Marina after they have spent years vacationing here," said Dickinson. "Our transition team looked into a variety of options to try to bring a concessioner to Echo Bay."
In the meantime, Dickinson is equally concerned about the lack of fuel that will be available on the Overton Arm. With the 2007 closure of services at Overton Beach and the new closure of fuel services at Echo Bay, the closest water-based fuel is now 30 miles away at Callville Bay.
"It's important that people know their boats' limits before setting out on the water. They need to be more cognizant of how far they can travel and safely return before running out of fuel," he said.
NPS Campground and Launch Ramp Will Remain Open
Although commercial services at the marina will be closed, the launch ramp and other park-operated facilities are still open at Echo Bay.
"The public can launch boats from the extended launch ramp. There are beautiful picnic and campground areas with public restrooms and an RV dump station, and for those who fish, there is a fish cleaning station," said Dickinson. "Echo Bay is a beautiful area of Lake Mead that welcomes nearly 200,000 recreational visitors a year," he added.
Echo Bay is located about 55 miles by road from downtown Las Vegas. You can download a map from the park website to help visualize the area's location on the lake and the impact of the closure on boaters.