Scenic USA - Arizona

Black Canyon

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Black Canyon - Route 93, Arizona

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Receiving its name from surrounding walls of black volcanic rock, Black Canyon is part of a continuing chasm cut by the Colorado River, dividing Arizona’s Black Mountains from Nevada’s El Dorado Mountains. Here at the uppermost reaches of Lake Mohave, Black Canyon is most famous for the Hoover Dam site about 11 miles upstream. Anchored into the walls of Black Canyon, the massive Hoover Dam was the world’s largest hydro-electric installation in the world when it was completed in 1936. Downstream, about 60 miles to the south is Davis Dam, named after Bureau of Reclamation chief Arthur Powell Davis. Davis Dam, an earth-filled structure, formed the 28,000 acre Lake Mohave, now part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Both dam projects were built to tame the erratic flows of the Colorado River, provide electrical power and supply water for crop irrigation during dry periods. What was unknown at the time, these immense roadblocks attracted altogether different bird species, altered life cycles of native fish and disrupted the natural build up of life giving sediments along the riverbanks.
     Aside from the awe-inspiring Hoover Dam, the area features a variety of natural attractions. Upstream from this scene, avid canyon hikers may discover a series of seeps and springs on both sides of the canyon. Discharging both thermal and non-thermal waters, temperatures vary from 55 degrees (F) to 136 degrees (F). Nevada Hot Springs, located in Gold Strike Canyon, has all the makings of a great day hike. Here, a string of hot spring pools create the perfect remedy for the body’s aches and pains. Arizona Hot Springs, another thermal flow of 111 degree (F) water, has been noted on maps since the mid 1800s. Another Black Canyon attraction lures divers into the Black Canyon. Ringbolt Rapids is an exciting location for advanced divers where river currents may reach as much as 16 miles an hour. Cold water releases from Hoover Dam provide excellent water clarity throughout the year.
     From this mile high perch on U.S. Route 93, a distant blue ribbon and surrounding desert terrain reveal little about the interesting details found in the Black Canyon area. Here in one of the driest and hottest places on earth, plants and desert animals may sometimes seem invisible. But patient observers may discover bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, yucca moths, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and ospreys. Hardy desert shrubs, riverside greenery and spring wildflowers add small splashes of color to an otherwise uninviting desert landscape.

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