Author Archive

Ask-a-Guide Series: Vanlife in Southern Nevada

Written By: Matt Hodges (Blazin’ Paddles Guide)

Before having the privilege of becoming a guide at Blazin Paddles, I spent the better part of 2019 traveling the western landscapes North American in my Mercedes Sprinter van. Joining the ever growing number of people seeking a nomadic lifestyle, I converted my van into the adventure mobile of my dreams and hit the road with my dog, Layla. From the Baja Mexico to British Columbia, we covered over 20,000 miles, but still found ourselves back in desert landscapes of Southern Nevada and Northwest Arizona. Why? The Mohave desert offers solitude, ample free Bureau of Land Management camping, proximity to major cities, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.


While some van lifers call urban areas home for work, most, like me, seek open spaces and the quiet the vast desert has to offer. One area local option is Kingman Wash, a maintained BLM road that offers free camping and a decent bathroom. The road runs for about 3.6 miles over hills and down washes through the wild backcountry to the colorful Paint Pots area at the shore of Lake Mead, and a high clearance vehicle is recommended, but making the trek is worth it. Those who brave the journey will be rewarded with opportunities to paddle (I like to paddle board with my dog) and hikes to ancient volcanoes at Fortification Hill.  There isn’t much shade, but if like me you run your appliances and electronics on solar and carry plenty of water, this is a paradise.

Those passing through can find safe and convenient parking at the Hoover Dam Lodge. Parking here for three nights is free, you must simply provide vehicle information at the front desk in the lobby. HDL offers a quaint casino experience and backs up to the edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, allowing you to step right out of your rig and take walking/biking trails to the Hoover Dam or down to the lake. If you plan to take a kayak tour with us, you can save time and money by meeting us at our shop in HDL, and we offer plenty of gear to equip you for any water adventure!

When to visit:

The desert is a place of extremes when it comes to weather. Winter offers more sunny, warm days than anywhere else in the US, but I’ve had plenty of nights of running a heater wandering if the winter winds were going to blow my van over. Cold, blustery days are rare, and many days I find myself adventuring in shorts and a t-shirt. Summers are down right brutal, and with temperatures hanging around in the triple digits its advised to seek hook-ups, hotels, or book it to higher altitudes. Mount Charleston, located an hour north of the strip is my preferred locale during the hot times, where temps seldom climb over 75F at high elevations and free camping can be found. All things considered, I would recommend van living in the region from November to April. 

What to do:

Paddling in the Black Canyon is a must do experience. The crystal clear water, towering canyon walls, desert bighorn sheep leaping along the edges of cliffs.. need I say more? There are also several hot springs in the area to choose from. I prefer Goldstrike Hot Springs, where you scramble boulders using fixed ropes to access several pools varying from warm to nearly scalding. 

If I’m not on the the river, you will likely find me rock climbing. Red Rock Canyon has long been a Mecca for climbers looking to test their test their skills on desert sandstone, and that’s exactly what drew me here to begin with. The area offers world class routes in the disciplines of traditional climbing, sport climbing, and bouldering. The amount of options is almost overwhelming, and any local will tell you that it would be impossible to climb everything in Red Rock in a lifetime. Located just outside of the suburban neighborhoods of Summerlin in North Las Vegas, free overnight parking can be tricky, but there is a pay BLM campground that requires advanced booking in the busy months. 

There’s also mountain biking, but my two wheeled experiences haven’t ended well, so you can talk our guide Seth about that.

Lastly, just because I live in a van doesn’t mean I don’t like to enjoy the finer things in life every once in a while. When I get a wild hair or don’t feel like cooking in my van, its nice to head into Las Vegas for a night out. I prefer downtown for its trendy restaurants and easy parking. Tacotarian, a vegan Mexican eatery, and Able Baker Brewing (try the Atomic Duck IPA) are my usual haunts. There’s something for everyone in Las Vegas, and its fun to be mesmerized by the city lights now and then. 


I’ll leave you with a few pro tips I’ve learned while living out here:

-Having a good solar set-up is a great investment. On average, Southern Nevada sees 294 days of sun.

-Speaking of the sun, never underestimate its power. I once took a nap after climbing with my side door open and the noonday sun caused my vinyl floor warp and it still doesn’t sit exactly right. Now consider what its doing to your skin. Think zinc! 

-Invest in sunshades for all of the windows in your rig, they do wonders insulating against the hot and cold.

-Get a good water set up. Locals don’t even drink from the tap so I use a a refillable 5 gallon jug and refilling stations can be found at most any grocery store. 

Last, be sure join me and the Blazin’ Paddles crew for a memorable kayaking adventure!

Ask-A-Guide Series: Best Part of a Blazin’ Paddles Tour

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

What makes a Blazin’ Paddles tour so fun is that your tour guides are having fun right along with you. We love our jobs, our guests, and we love kayaking on the Colorado River! Here’s what your tour guides had to say about their favorite part of a Blazin’ Paddles tour. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more kayaking inspiration! 


I really enjoy meeting people from all over the world, and the almost daily encounters with desert wildlife. I feel so lucky to have the Colorado River as my office, and I enjoy every tour!


I love being on the river and in Black Canyon, so it’s hard to choose a favorite part! I love every part!


Enjoying the crystal clear water and jaw dropping views while paddling with people who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do makes every day unforgettable.


My favorite part of the tour is on the half-day, after leaving the overlook and you approach the narrowing canyon. All of a sudden you can’t see the bottom of the river anymore and the canyon walls get higher and higher. That view never gets old!


If you are lucky enough to see the Desert Bighorn Sheep in their natural habitat, and all the other desert wildlife!


Arizona hot springs on the full day tour. It’s always great to soak!


Swimming in the refreshing 52 degree Colorado River and sharing that experience with our guest! Best way to beat the heat in the desert.

Hoover Dam Lodge: Our New Home Base!

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

We are so excited to be all moved into our new home base, the Hoover Dam Lodge in historic Boulder City! Complete with a brand new retail shop, streamlined check-in process AND hotel room discounts (info below), you’ll want to book your next kayak tour and room ASAP to experience all the exciting improvements!


First you’ll want to visit our brand new retail shop. Here you can book your next tour, relax in the lounge, snap a perfect selfie under our neon sign, pick up last minute gear like a phone case or dry bag, and of course, grab some new Blazin’ Paddles swag! 


After the tour, the Hoover Dam Lodge has multiple restaurants such as La Villita, the Red Dragon and Bourbon Street where you can fill up. A few of our guides stopped into the Bighorn Cafe recently and had a delicious lunch. You can’t go wrong with the Bacon Jalapeño Cheeseburger (complete with bighorn shaped fries) or the VIP Platter to share.


One of our favorite things about Hoover Dam Lodge is that it’s not just the perfect home base for Blazin’ Paddles, but also for your outdoor adventure. Guests of Blazin’ Paddles can take advantage of our special booking rates by calling the hotel directly at (800) 245-6380 or (702) 293-5000. The weekday rate is $62 and weekend is $79, an affordable alternative to the Strip with no resort fees!

The comfortably large rooms are decorated in calming desert tones and many feature views of Lake Mead and surrounding mountains. In-room amenities include a coffee maker, microwave and mini fridge. The lodge also has a swimming pool and hot tub which are perfect after a long day on the river.

We look forward to seeing you soon at the Hoover Dam Lodge in Boulder City!      

Leave No Trace: 7 Principles

Your Blazin’ Paddles kayaking tour takes place on the amazing Black Canyon Water Trail on the Colorado River, within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Annually, over 7 million people visit the Lake Mead National Recreation Area which also includes Lake Mohave! 

In order for everyone to enjoy the outdoors while minimizing environmental impact and preserving resources for the future, Blazin’ Paddles follows the Leave No Trace: 7 Principles for Outdoor Ethics. These should be followed anytime you are in the great outdoors. Here’s how Blazin’ Paddles ensures that each principle is closely followed. 

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Even though your guides know the river like the back of their hands, the staff is constantly checking conditions to ensure safety on the water via weather radar apps and updates from the Park Service. Guides are well-stocked with water, snacks, and emergency safety equipment like first aid kits and tow ropes. The central office is aware of who is on every tour, the bus locations via GPS monitoring, and current weather conditions. Every pickup and drop off location is confirmed in advance so guests can have fun on tour, knowing it is safe and well-planned! 

Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

You will notice that when we make stops on tour, they are not random. Stops may include swim beaches, hot springs, or historical sites, but we always stay on existing trails and beaches instead of creating new ones. This helps with many things including native plant protection, erosion control, and preserving the visual beauty of the Black Canyon! 

Dispose of Waste Properly

Everyone loves a snack break while on tour. We bring lots of delicious treats like fig bars and cheez-its. However, you’ll notice that your guides don’t just hand out snacks, they also collect your trash and stash it until it can be discarded properly so it doesn’t end up on the trail or in the water by accident. Litter is certainly unsightly, but more importantly it does not belong in our wild ecosystems. This includes food waste such as bread, nuts and fruit peels. They don’t biodegrade quickly and may cause harm to wildlife.

Leave What You Find

Collecting of any kind is illegal in the National Parks. However, even when you’re not in a designated park, the principle is still important: what if each visitor took something? That would take a huge toll! That’s why your guides always point out cool things like plants, lizards, and even minerals, and encourage you to take photos so the resources remain for others to enjoy!  

Minimize Campfire Impact

Fire safety is extremely important in the dry, hot desert. On      the Twilight Tour, our guests enjoy roasting hot dogs and s’mores over a beach campfire when the National Park Service does not have a red flag warning about fire safety. We always stay 100 feet away from shrubbery, and when we are done with the fire we dispose of the fire ring and make sure the coals are completely extinguished and either buried at an appropriate depth or packed out. 

Respect Wildlife

Wildlife spotting is one of the most exciting parts of the tour. There’s so much to see in the Black Canyon like bald eagles, bighorn sheep, chuckwalla lizards, and even rattlesnakes. However, a safe distance must always kept, which is important for both the animals and guests. Instead of approaching wildlife, take your time to observe their behaviors and learn something new!  

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

In addition to sharing the Black Canyon with wildlife, it is shared with other visitors who come to fish, camp, paddle or hike. When launching or making a stop at a beach, our kayaks are kept close together to leave space for other groups. Even in places like Emerald Cave, we take in the view but recognize others may be waiting to come inside and have a look, so we stay for a reasonable amount of time and then move to the next beautiful stop. We all need the outdoors to relax, recharge and be inspired. Consideration of others goes a long way to preserve the peace and serenity of the Black Canyon! 

For more information about the Leave No Trace principles, visit!

Ask-A-Guide Series: Best Vegas Attractions

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

Vegas has so much to offer besides the casinos. There are many attractions for all ages and interests on the Strip and beyond. We asked the guides for their favorites, so enjoy! 

Seth – Tour Guide

The Mob Museum and The Distillery in the basement. There’s great local history and a speakeasy!

Ryan – Owner

Going to a Vegas Golden Knights game. The amount of energy in the T-Mobile Arena is mind blowing!

Liz – Office Manager

Downtown Las Vegas because it’s the best place to bar hop and Fremont Street is the best place to people watch!


Burton – Tour Guide

Riding the Big Shot on the Stratosphere. Unforgettable!

Edgar – Tour Guide

Drive-in movies at the West Wind because you can hang outside with family while enjoying the movie.


Ask-A-Guide Series: Best Day Trips

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

Las Vegas used to be known only as a gambling destination. Over the years people have learned the secret about the other side of Vegas: it is an amazing hub for adventures in Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah! There are many places that you can reach within one day, and even return to Vegas on the same day. It should come as no surprise that when you ask outdoor guides for a day trip, they will all choose outdoor places and adventures! 

Seth – Guide

Brianhead, Utah for snowboarding and mountain biking. There are outdoor activities to do all year long! 

Ryan – Owner

I like to wake up early at 5am. Drive to St. George, Utah for breakfast then continue on to Zion National Park. Spend the day hiking for 6 or 7 hours and make it back in time for dinner in Vegas.

Liz – Office Manager

Hiking all around Vegas. My favorite hike is Gold Strike, it’s not the easiest hike but I love being able to see the natural hot springs and going down to the Colorado River. Red Rock Canyon also has a ton of hikes for all levels of fitness!

Burton – Tour Guide

An amazing day trip is to go to Death Valley. You can make a driving loop out of it and enter through the southern end via Shoshone or Death Valley Junction. Badwater Basin is a MUST. The salt flat looks other-worldly and you’ve never felt that kind of heat. Then venture north to either the Oasis or the Ranch at Furnace Creek for lunch and a pit stop. Next you’ll head out the east entrance on Route 374 (make a bonus trip to the sand dunes if time allows). Stop at the ghost town of Rhyolite before dinner in Beatty and driving back to Vegas!

Edgar – Tour Guide

Going to Zion National Park and enjoying a great hike and a little lunch with a gorgeous view

Lauren – Tour Guide

     It’s a toss up between hiking and rock climbing in Zion National Park, and hiking in Valley of Fire State Park. At Zion I love the challenging Angel’s Landing trail, and looking for the petroglyphs in Valley of Fire!

Anti-Tour of Las Vegas

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

Las Vegas draws people from all around the world, and many are repeat visitors. After a couple of visits, some tourists feel ready to break out of the Strip and venture out. That’s where the anti-tour comes in. An anti-tour is about seeing another side of a city than the main tourist attractions: places where locals like to eat, shop, and spend their free time. Here are some great spots to check out if you’ve done the Strip and need a change! 

Arts District

Take a walk down South Main Street in the Arts District and you’ll wonder if you’re even in the same Las Vegas as your hotel. The businesses here are mostly locally owned and offer unique shopping and dining. Pop into Retro Vegas for fun vintage items and local nostalgia, or try a cocktail at the reggae inspired Jammyland. If reptiles in formaldehyde are more your scene, then don’t miss Las Vegas Oddities!  

Clark County Museum

Step back in time at the Clark County Museum in Henderson and learn some authentic history of Southern Nevada. Boulder City was originally a government town for Hoover Dam and Henderson was a company town for Basic Magnesium, which meant that housing was provided to the workers. The Clark County Museum has preserved and restored a handful of these delightful cottage homes from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Admission is only $2 for adults.


Less than two miles off the strip is the long-standing Chinatown Plaza. With over 15 restaurants to choose from including korean barbecue, seafood, and bakeries, there is something for everyone at this great Strip alternative.

Fergusons Market in the Alley

On the third Saturday of each month, Ferguson’s Downtown hosts the Market in the Alley, which is a collection of unique sales booths from local artisans. There is jewelry, vintage clothing, handmade pottery, coffee, art prints and more. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon! As a bonus, check out some of the downtown murals while you’re there.

Lake Las Vegas

Tucked away in the foothills along the Las Vegas Wash, Lake Las Vegas has become a tiny escape for locals. It’s only about 30 minutes from the Strip but feels like a world away with lush trees and gardens, cobblestone walkways between restaurants and even a small sandy beach with boat rentals and an aquapark. Saturday nights during the summer and fall there is free live music beneath the stars. It’s also the filming site of America’s Sweethearts starring Julia Roberts!

Ask-A-Guide Series: Best Off-Strip Restaurants

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

When it comes to dining, Las Vegas is most famous for the Strip, and rightfully so because every hotel and casino has multiple world class restaurants inside. But sometimes it feels good to get off the Strip and experience another side of Vegas, just like the day you spend on tour with Blazin’ Paddles. If you’re looking for a meal at a place where the locals dine, here are some of your best bets from the guides! 

Lauren – Tour Guide

Pancho’s Vegan tacos! It’s cheap, fast, and delicious Mexican food. I love their three street taco combo which comes with rice and beans for just $7.99

Address: 4865 S Pecos Rd #5, Las Vegas, NV 89121

Dani – Tour Guide

Pure Indian Cuisine is delicious, and for myself the Malai Kofta is by far my favorite dish. The restaurant itself is really cool, it’s on the 2nd floor across the street from the airport, and you can watch the planes land and takeoff. Some nights they have a pretty awesome live singer.

Address: 1405 E Sunset Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89119

Edgar – Assistant Guide

I love to eat at the Yard house because they have a huge menu and I love the beer! They feature many local breweries from Las Vegas like Big Dog’s and Tenaya Creek

Address: Multiple Locations

Burton – Assistant Guide

I love going to Mint Indian Bistro for the lunch buffet, they have a great variety of northern and southern curry.

Address: 730 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89119

Liz – Office Manager

Nora’s Italian Cuisine. I always order their arrabbiata pasta but anything you order there is delicious. Love their fresh garlic bread too!

Address: 5780 W Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89103

Seth – Head Guide

Khoury’s Mediterranean is one of my favorites and I always order the lamb over hummus or Farooj

Address: 9340 W Sahara Ave #106, Las Vegas, NV 89117

Ryan – Owner/Lead Guide

El Dorado Cantina Upscale Mexican that won’t break the bank. Good happy hour options and open 24/7.

Address:3025 S Sammy Davis Jr Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89109

A Tour of the Fish Hatchery

Written by: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

Just north of Willow Beach Marina is the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery which first opened in 1962. The hatchery is both ecologically and recreationally significant because of the fish that are raised and stocked. Here is an up close and personal tour of everything you can’t see from your kayak!

Self-guided tours are free and open to the public on weekdays.

There are three fish that are raised here at the hatchery. Rainbow trout are primarily for anglers, and the endangered Bonytail Chub and Razorback Suckers are part of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. Both populations were severely affected when the dams were built.

Your tour begins as you enter through the Visitor’s Gate. You will notice the shaded awnings to protect the fish and water from extreme desert sun. These awnings also support the solar panels, which were part of a 2010 rehabilitation effort. 

From the fence if you look out over the Colorado River you will see the pumping station. This provides a constant source of fresh river water to the hatchery. While on tour, we pass right by the pumping station but when focused on the scenery and wildlife it’s easy to miss. Rainbow trout and razorbacks need cold water, that’s why Willow Beach is an ideal location for the hatchery because the water that passes through the dam from the depths of Lake Mead is a chilly 52 degrees all year! 

The long troughs that contain the fish are called “raceways.” Fresh water is continuously circulated through the raceways to ensure that the temperature does not rise due to stangancy. Fish remain with others of the same size for up to 12 months as they grow before release. Staff and volunteers make sure the raceways are drained and cleaned adequately to prevent the buildup of harmful ammonia.

In some of the raceways you will see what looks like a million pieces of pasta. These are called bio-balls and are another type of filtration that help generate healthy bacteria to reduce the ammonia buildup from fish waste and leftover feed. Toxicity is reduced by the conversion of ammonia into nitrites and nitrates. Don’t worry, the bio-balls are in a separate area from the fish!

Here are some mature rainbows in the raceway, almost ready for release into the Colorado River! Rainbow Trout are hatched on site with fresh eggs that are overnight shipped four times a year from the
Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana. They grow up to 12 inches in a year.

The last and final step in the hatchery cycle is the release! Every Friday morning, weather and holidays permitting, 1,000 trout are released at Willow Beach for fishing. The stock site used to be the Paddlecraft Beach where our kayaks are launched (which explains why the bald eagles love to perch above this beach), but it became too shallow with the changing shape of the river and unsafe for the fish. Now, they are released at the paved boat ramp beside the marina.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the tour…now pick up a fishing license and drop a line!

Ask-A-Guide Series: Best Shows

Written By: Burton Miller (Blazin’ Paddles Tour Guide)

After a refreshing paddle on the river, one of the best ways to relax at the end of the day is by seeing a show. There are so many to choose from in Vegas, so here are some recommendations from the guides!

Lauren – Guide

The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage because the production is beautiful, and you can’t go wrong with classic Beatles songs!

Liz & Ryan – Office Manager & Owner

Absinthe at Caesars Palace. I love that there is no filter for the show. It’s awesomely raw, crude, vulgar, and racy humor. Great mixture of comedy and acrobatics. Keeps the crowd entertained from the beginning. Must see but it’s not for the easily offended!!

Dani – Head Guide

Out of the Vegas shows that I’ve seen, Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil was my favorite. It was beautifully done, and had a great comedic host.

Edgar – Assistant Guide

Carrot Top at the Luxor because it’s a small theater and he is hilarious!

Seth – Head Guide

The sunsets in spring, just because.

Best Places to Watch: McCarran Airport Runway Viewing or Stratosphere Tower

Burton – Assistant Guide

My favorite spectacle show is a tie between “O” by Cirque du Soleil and Le Reve. Both are very moving with the water and thrilling acrobatics. For concert residency, it’s Cher and Janet all the way!

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