70 miles NW of Kingman; 256 miles NW of Phoenix; 30 miles SE of Las Vegas, NV

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and a scenic, free-flowing stretch of the Colorado River, straddles the border between Arizona and Nevada. Throughout the year, anglers fish for striped bass, rainbow trout, channel catfish, and other sport fish, while during the hot summer months, Lake Mead and Lake Mohave attract tens of thousands of water-skiers and personal watercraft riders. There are more facilities on the Nevada side of Lake Mead, close to Las Vegas, and so the recreation area tends to be more popular with Nevadans and Californians than with Arizonans.

Lake Mead, the larger of the two reservoirs, was created by Hoover Dam, the first major dam on the Colorado River, built between 1931 and 1935. By supplying huge amounts of electricity and water to Arizona and California, it set the stage for the phenomenal growth the region experienced in the latter half of the 20th century. Today, with water levels in a bathtub-ringed Lake Mead at all-time lows, the cities that depend on the lake’s water have finally begun to address the issue of water conservation.

U.S. 93, which once ran across the top of Hoover Dam, connects Nevada and Arizona via the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. (Bridge buffs note: It’s the highest concrete arch bridge in the world, at 900 feet.) The old road from Goldstrike Canyon to Hoover Dam makes for a twist-and-turn adventure. On either side of the river, secondary roads lead to various marinas on Lake Mead, and there are many miles of unpaved roads within the recreation area for which it’s best to have a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle.