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June/July 2000

Table of Contents
Camping with your Airplane
Flying the Backcountry
Establishing Recreational Airports
The Call of the Wild
The new Aviat Husky
The $100 Hamburger
McGehee's Catfish Restaurant, Oklahoma
Back To Basics
Flying Safely to Remote Airstrips
Hangar Flying:
The Choir
SWAV News Update

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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
Wet & Wild at Echo Bay
story and photos by Mark Swint

Once summer comes, give me mountains or water: either one will do just fine, thank you! If I'm not hiking through verdant forests smelling the fresh scent of pine and hearing the rushing of some cool, clear mountain stream, then I want to be frolicking in the warm lake waters that provide cooling summer sport. I still like places that I can fly to and, while I prefer solitude in the mountains, I don't mind the convenience of civilization around the water. After all, so many water activities require such necessities as gas, oil, Doritos and drinks on ice. Still, a degree of removal from the maddening crowd does help to cut down on the mayhem and rush of the summertime hoards that swarm to the beaches and waterfronts around the land.

Having just moved to Southern Nevada, I was anxious to explore my new environs, particularly Lake Mead. With an overall length of 110 miles and an impressive 550 miles of rugged and scenic shoreline, I figured Lake Mead would provide some interesting and varied flying. At first I was just looking for somewhere I could land and have my own little beach. During my flights I came upon Echo Bay, located on the west side of the north arm of the lake.

Echo Bay is a very nice, yet uncrowded little development which boasts a wide variety of amenities that cater to everyone — from those who want to rough it in a lakeside campground to a luxurious hotel. You can cook your own meals over a campfire or eat at the very nice "Tail O' The Whale" restaurant. You can swim and float on your own inner tubes and rafts, or rent all manner of toys ranging from personal watercraft to luxury houseboats that sleep up to 14 people.

The north arm of Lake Mead is called the Overton Arm, and it holds some of the prettiest shoreline on the lake. The Arm’s east side has many small and secluded coves butted up against sandstone cliffs, and there are many small sandy beaches as well. A fifteen minute boat ride from the Echo Bay Marina will have you at your own private cove with beach where you can camp, swim, fish, picnic and just chill for as long as you want. The lake does see pretty heavy traffic during the summer months, especially on the weekends, but with so much shoreline available you can always find a spot with as many, or as few, people as you are comfortable being around.

The beginnings of the resort at Echo Bay are a little murky. Rumor has it that the secluded little bay was first developed by some of the "colorful" businessmen who ran and controlled the gaming industry in nearby Las Vegas during the sixties. They apparently enjoyed the privacy of the bay and its remote location. Whatever the truth, Echo Bay has since become a very nice, not too publicized getaway that is very accessible from both Las Vegas, Nevada, and St. George, Utah. It is now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and is included within the boundaries of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. As such, all visitors fall under the supervision of the full-time Park Rangers who staff the Park Service building at the entrance to the Resort. While fees are collected at several entrance stations on the roads leading into the Recreation Area, there is — so far — no fee structure for airplanes. However, as this is being written, improvements are being made to the landing strip, and I imagine a collection facility will be in place soon. The fee for cars is very reasonable ($5.00 per vehicle per week). Once inside the area no other fees are collected.

The lake-front campground for tenters provides some very nice campsites, and is equipped with clean and modern bathrooms. Everything in the resort area is within walking distance. A stroll from the campground on one end to the hotel and restaurant on the other is no more than five minutes. The marina next to the hotel has a well stocked store with every supply a camper, boater, swimmer or fisherman could want. This is a good thing because there are no rental cars available at Echo Bay.

The Echo Bay Resort is administered by Seven Crown Resorts Corp., who have done a great job anticipating the needs of their visitors. The hotel has 54 rooms, with the "in season" rates running from $75.00 to $90.00 per night. There is a large number of houseboats for rent ranging from 42 to 56 feet. There are also fishing boats, patio boats, personal watercraft (Ski Doos), and ski boats for rent. The campground has a good swimming area. The water is calm and clear, with visibility up to 20 or 30 feet. The week prior to my visit (late April) the water temperature rose a full five degrees from 59 to 64 degrees. By late summer the water temperature will be well into the 80s.

The desert landscape around Echo Bay hosts a full and active ecosystem. Most visible (and problematic) are the wild mustangs and burros that roam the area. This spring the U.S. Park Service put in a cattle crossing and fencing around the airport to keep these animals off the runway. They can be seen most easily during evening and early morning hours when the temperatures are coolest. If you plan on arriving during those times, a low pass over the runway would be a prudent maneuver. On my way back to the airstrip I was puzzled to see a signpost on the road which read "Hunting area - No target shooting." I asked my friend and Echo Bay resident, Bud Woodall, what could possibly be hunted out there. Within a hundred yards we had our answer, as we came around a bend and saw four big, beautiful and healthy Desert Big Horn Sheep! We were not three hundred yards from the landing strip. I have also heard that wild Javalina Hogs roam the area as well. The desert also holds some pretty nasty creatures. The Park Service pamphlet on Lake Mead cautions visitors to watch out for rattlesnakes, scorpions, and gila monsters (all of which are poisonous). These animals will leave you alone unless cornered or provoked, so while hiking it is best to keep your eyes alert and give any desert creature a wide berth. Carrying a walking stick would also be a good idea.

If you get tired of camping or boating, or just want a diversion for the day or evening, Echo Bay is close enough to world-class entertainment to satisfy any need. By air Las Vegas McCarren airport is 40 miles away, with the less complicated Henderson Executive airport only 4 miles beyond. The North Las Vegas airport and Boulder City airport, only 42 and 32 statue miles away respectively, also offer access to the world famous Las Vegas Strip. For those who haven't been to Las Vegas recently, you might be surprised how diverse the town has become. All the major hotels have expanded their offerings to appeal to a wider range of visitor. A real effort has been made to provide more family type entertainment, and it is very easy to spend an entire day visiting shops, amusements, and eating the finest food in the world without ever setting foot on a gaming floor. Of course the casinos are thriving as well, and some of them should be visited just to see their opulence and beauty. Kids especially love the pirate show in front of Treasure Island, and the fiery volcano at the Mirage next door. The new Venetian hotel-casino has a 1,500 foot canal with real gondoliers, who will serenade you as you course past the indoor shops and restaurants in an authentic gondola. New York, New York has a great roller coaster—and the MGM Grand has an entire amusement park! It is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and sports the worlds largest "Sky Coaster" which can only be described as a GIANT (10 story) swing set, which starts with a free fall while tethered to a cable and harness. It is sure to get the adrenaline going for any who are brave enough to give it a go.

If Las Vegas is too big or if you would prefer to keep the trip quieter, a day trip in the other direction might be in order. Mesquite, Nevada has a beautiful new airstrip and several fine hotels in the area provide free shuttle service to and from the airfield. There are several excellent golf courses, and the Casablanca Resort has a great day spa, providing pedicures, manicures, facial treatments, massages, and just about any other luxury grimy backcountry pilots and crew might seek (or really need!).

Another spectacular diversion would be an aerial tour to several of the most scenic vistas in America. Of course the Grand Canyon is probably the number one site on that list. Its west end begins just to the east of Lake Mead. Just a little farther to the north, just past St. George, Utah, are seven National Parks including Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, all located in Southern Utah. There are some overflight rules over National Parks, but all can be viewed from a vantage point few will ever see from the ground. Grand Canyon National Park has some particularly onerous overflight rules, so it would be wise to get the special Grand Canyon VFR Aeronautical Chart in order to stay legal and be in compliance with the "Special Grand Canyon Flight Rules" (a call to FSS can give you the latest information). Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to fly above 14,000 feet for the entire Canyon. Many parts of the canyon can be viewed from as low as 8,000 MSL. There are several corridors which allow passage through the most popular areas at lower altitudes and a fair amount of the canyon can be seen from the perimeter. The Park Service is protective and diligent about their airspace though, so follow the rules!

If flying over the rugged terrain of the canyons makes you nervous, you may opt for a commercial scenic flight out of Las Vegas, Henderson, or Boulder City. All three airports have tour operators that can provide you with a spectacular flight that will be remembered for years. These tour operator are also authorized to fly significantly lower through the Grand Canyon. All the flights include audio-taped narration giving the history and items of interest about the Canyon. Most operators have narration in at least five different languages as people come from all over the world to see this spectacular site. Papillon Air Tours even offers helicopter flights, which will take your party to some magnificent locations where you will set down for a brief stay. They even provide a very nice lunch!

So, when the need for waterside fun wins out over that high mountain meadow, take a flight down to Lake Mead’s Echo Bay and its surrounds. Regardless of whether you choose to camp or pamper yourself in the resort, you will have a thoroughly enjoyable time in this unique area of the Southwest.

Echo Bay, Nevada (0L9)

The Echo Bay airstrip is paved, with 3,400 feet of useable runway, and sits at an elevation of 1,534 feet. The runway (06-24) slopes uphill to the west, away from the water, by almost 60 feet. There is ample parking on the north side, and improvements to ramp and tiedown areas are on-going. The Echo Bay Resort, approximately two miles to the east, monitors 122.8 and will send a van out to get you. Transportation can be a bit slow at times, so a call to the hotel in advance would be advisable. They can be reached at (702) 394-4000. There are no services on field.

Echo Bay (0L9) is on the Las Vegas sectional chart, with a Lat/Long of N36.19.0 W114.28.0. From Arizona or New Mexico the best approach around the Grand Canyon’s airspace is to proceed to the Peach Springs VOR (112.0), then direct to the lake via the 292 degree radial. From there just follow the main body of the lake north. Total distance from PGS is approximately 73 sm. From Southern California proceeding direct to the Boulder city VOR (116.7) would be your best bet, but remember that the VOR is under the Las Vegas Class B airspace. Staying below 4,500 feet will keep you legal all the way, and out of Class B. Follow the Boulder 031degree radial for 32 sm and you'll be there. When arriving from the north or northwest be sure to consult the map for restricted areas and MOAs.
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.