Sunday, December 21, 2008
Desert Princess Highlights Lake Mead
There are few better ways to see Lake Mead than from the decks of the Desert Princess, an old-fashioned paddlewheeler that offers excursions on the lake.
The 300-passenger, 110-foot Princess, which displaces 150 tons of water, has the distinction of being the largest vessel ever to ply the waters of Lake Mead, which it does year-round, several times a day (more often in the summer months).
With its three-decks, twin smoke stacks, rows of rear paddles and ornate design that was influenced by the classic riverboats of the Old South, the Princess is a noticeable contrast to Lake Mead’s stark but beautiful desert scenery.
While the Princess may have an old-time Mississippi riverboat look, it is actually only a decade old and is equipped with modern amenities.
A trip on the Princess is an opportunity to enjoy the full menu of Lake Mead’s unique land- and waterscapes. Cruises depart from the Lake Mead Cruises Landing, a 2,400-square foot dock located about ten miles east of Boulder City.
Gliding out of its slip, the paddlewheeler rides surprisingly smoothly for such as big boat. Powered by two propellers and the paddle array, the ship can reach a top speed of about 14 miles per hour.
The journey heads out into the heart of the lake, which is one the largest manmade reservoirs in the country with 500 miles of shore. Soon, the ship passes massive Fortification Hill, a flat mesa opposite the arena.
North is solitary Sentinel Island, while south are Big Boulder Island and Rock Island. The boat slides past both and slowly enters the mouth of Black Canyon.
Interestingly, Hoover Dam, which was originally called Boulder Dam, is located not in Boulder Canyon—that’s farther north—but in Black Canyon. As the sternwheeler continues up the canyon, it is pointed out that sometimes bighorn sheep can be seen walking along the steep cliffs.
Ahead, looms Hoover Dam. Arriving via the lake offers a different perspective on the dam. It’s a weird feeling floating near the dam and thinking that on the other side of the concrete wall is a drop of more than 700 feet.
In addition to offering a pleasant, smooth ride, the Princess was designed to meet the challenges of operating in the often-hot Southern Nevada climate. Two decks are enclosed and temperature-controlled, while the top deck promenade is open for those wanting to get some sun.
One and a half-hour, narrated Mid-day sightseeing cruises are scheduled daily at 12 noon and 2 p.m. (November 1 through March 31), then expand to four times a day in the summer.
The Princess also offers a three-hour Dinner/Dance Cruise for adults throughout the year. For more information call 702-293-6180, www.lakemeadcruises.com.