Wildlife at the Hoover Dam: A Checklist

Date: June 4, 2017
Category: Blog

When the Hoover Dam was constructed in the 1930s, the reservoir it created offered additional resources for the area’s natural wildlife. Already teeming with reptiles, fish, and other native critters, the vibrant Mojave Desert Ecosystem now had a stable freshwater source in Lake Mead. On your Black Canyon River Adventures rafting tour, you’ll get an up-close and personal look at the flourishing wildlife inside Black Canyon Gorge on the river side of Hoover Dam.

The gorge was created around 15 million years ago, and named for the dark volcanic rocks that appear in its craggy walls. Despite the gorge’s impressive depth – the dam itself is 726.4 feet high, and Black Canyon even deeper in some areas – a myriad of mammal and reptile life can be found on the cliffs and around the riverbed below.

Here are some of the species you might see along your Black Canyon Gorge river adventure.

·         Bighorn Sheep – The official state animal of Nevada, the bighorn sheep is one of the most frequently spotted mammals on our tours. Look for them nimbly navigating the cliffs above the Colorado river. They often travel in packs, led by the dominant sheep of the group.

·         Coyote – Coyotes are known for their ability to adapt to new environments. Typically, light grey or brown in color, they can easily be mistaken for small dogs. They are omnivores, which means they eat everything from snakes and rodents to cactus fruits and mesquite beans.

·         Gila Monster – Don’t let the name scare you; though you might not want this venomous desert-dwelling lizard as a pet, they make very little venom and generally reserve it for defending against predators. They are large (up to 2 feet) and slow moving, with thick black and orange/pink skin.

·         Desert Tortoise – These notoriously slow-moving creatures spend most of the year burrowed into the sandy ground. They can live up to 80 years feeding on desert plants. Desert Tortoises are currently listed as a threatened species, so feel lucky if you spot one near the start of our trip at Lake Mead.

·         Ground Squirrel – Brown with a double white stripe, the antelope ground squirrel is a hearty mammal that can survive a fever up to 104°F.  Unlike their chipmunk cousins, they don’t hibernate. So, your chances of spotting one during your rafting adventure are good.

·         Osprey and friends – Fishermen will undoubtedly be impressed by the natural skills of the osprey, which dives into freshwater to catch its fishy prey. You may also spot golden eagles, quail, blue heron, and other native birds.

·         Rattlesnakes, scorpions and tarantulas – Creepy crawlies are abundant in the desert. Most, like the brown-and-white Mojave rattler, are poisonous to humans and should be avoided.

When you spot any of these mammals or reptiles on your journey, be sure to ask one of our experienced tour guides about them. Pack your camera and a bit of sunscreen for your trip out to the Black Canyon Gorge and see the wildlife while enjoying a beautiful trip along the river.