Temple Bar, AZ and the Dam Tour

12 Feb
Welcome sign on the way to Temple Bar.

Welcome sign on the way to Temple Bar.

February first saw me zooming toward Las Vegas and points beyond to visit my college buddy, Gale, at Temple Bar, AZ.  I told everybody I was going to Lake Mead because no one (including me) had heard of Temple Bar.  The National Park Service says that Lake Mead is just minutes from Las Vegas.  I guess that is true if one is going only to Hoover Dam.  It’s another 45 miles to Temple Bar from Hoover Dam!  So Gale is basically out away from the hustle and bustle of ANYWHERE in her neat campground.  I should point out that Gale works as a camp volunteer picking up trash, weeding, making rock borders or other chores that need to be done around the 150 campsites and, for that effort, she gets free hookups for her trailer.  This is a pretty good deal since there are not many people at the campground and she’s worked hard to get the place looking nice.  So now she can pick and choose her time to work as the volunteer.

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This rock formation is known as The Temple and was a landmark for early travelers on the Colorado River. It was probably named by an early Mormon settler, Daniel Bonelli.  Bonelli Peak is in the background.  I never got a great picture of it.  Hence, the picture from a sign.

Let me tell you about Temple Bar.  It’s located in the Temple Basin on the Arizona side of

The marina and The Temple in the background

The marina and The Temple in the background

eastern Lake Mead.  It’s the closest marina for Arizonans who want to get away from the more populated Boulder Basin area of Lake Mead.  The area around Temple Bar Marina is especially well known for two things:  the massive rock formation that gave the area its name and its 20 mile long unobstructed water-ski runs that attract people during the summer months.  People also do a lot of fishing and kayaking around the area.

Gale has a nice 24′ trailer that provides ample room to eat, sleep and take care of daily ablutions. A nice fire pit is provided by the camp and we enjoyed several campfires with wood that Gale brought from home and scrounged from around the campsites. When I arrived, Linda and Gene, two Montana neighbors, were parked next to her and we had great conversations during campfires.  Linda and Gene left a couple of days after I arrived to wend their way farther down the Colorado River to Katherine Landing.

A group of 6 fishermen from Idaho and other areas camped a few campsites from us.  They had obviously done this before as they had their camp set up in about 20 minutes with even a 10 x 15 cooking/card playing tent, a sleeping tent and then two truck campers to work with.  Anyway, they set up their stuff and hauled their 2 boats down to the lake to try their luck.  I don’t know how many fish they caught, I think they didn’t much care.  They seemed to be quite interested in quaffing beer and probably many spirits.  They, too, had a campfire that they started by piling the wood into the pit and pouring gas on it.  Then the flames would roar upward in a dangerous manner.  The last night I was there, we could hear them snoring in their campers!  I’m glad that I wasn’t in the same room with them.

Two young men showed up one night in  Jucy van.  I think Jucy was a brand name for a neat camping set up.  The van was equipped similarly to a tear drop trailer with a small stove, fridge, storage and what not in the rear part.  A person could sleep in an area behind the driver and there was a popup tent type affair on top of the van for another sleeping area.  Really, a very handy and a neat idea.

Gregg's Hideout - isolated, huh?

Gregg’s Hideout – isolated, huh?

Gale took me on a long drive to a place called Gregg’s Hideout which is located in an easterly direction from Temple Bar.  It would be a good place

Gale's testing the barrel cactus stickers.  Note Sissy, the dog.  More about her later

Gale’s testing the barrel cactus stickers. Note Sissy’s (the dog) markings.  More about her later

for a hideout because the only access is by dirt road…some of which were pretty rugged.  I was glad that Gale drove her 4 wheel drive truck because my car would have bottomed out in about the first mile. It was a great drive as we explored some old camping sites that people might have used for cattle round ups, maybe small attempts at farming or even some mining.  We didn’t find anything exciting but we speculated on the stories that the land could tell.  As our altitude ascended and descended, we could see good stands of Joshua trees (that only grow in certain climes and altitudes), lots of barrel cactus, chaparral and mesquite.  I was wishing that I knew more about rocks as we saw many different types of stones, rocks and boulders that contained so many colors, layers and designs (for lack of a better word).

The road to Gregg’s was rough but pretty in its own way.  There is a lot of beauty in the desert…you just have to take the time to check it out closely.

Sissy was mistreated by earlier owners.  Butu she's blossomed under Gale's tutelage

Sissy was mistreated by earlier owners. Butu she’s blossomed under Gale’s tutelage

Sissy, Gale’s dog, is half blue-heeler and half beagle.  Quite a combination that made for a well behaved and pretty dog.  I was quite taken with Sissy and had fun throwing her frisbee for her.

Waiting for someone to throw the frisbee

Waiting for someone to throw the frisbee

We went to explore that engineering marvel, the Hoover Dam, and took an hour long tour that afforded us a chance to see things the average person doesn’t get to see.  We got to walk in a ventilator shaft

Ventilator shaft from which we took pictures

Ventilator shaft from which we took pictures

from which we could take pictures, experience the coolness of tunnels inside the vast dam,  see marks on the walls that engineers used to get things just right and some graffiti from dam workers.  Hoover Dam is 726 feet high and contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete.  This massive project was begun in 1931 and the last concrete was poured in 1935…two years ahead of schedule and well under budget!  (Can you imagine a comparable project finishing like that today?)  Lake Mead is formed by Hoover Dam and has a shoreline of 550 miles.  When full, its length is 110 miles.  Sadly, it is not full now, primarily because of an increasing need for water throughout the Southwest, drought and poor snow falls.  When Gale and I were at Gregg’s Hideout, we could see a waterline that appeared to be at least 90 feet above where we were.  The low water level can be seen from the air and ground.  I liken it to a bathtub ring

Taken from the ventilator shaft.  Black Canyon and the Colorado River are below

Taken from the ventilator shaft. Black Canyon and the Colorado River are below

You can see the bathtub ring around the edge of the lake

You can see the bathtub ring around the edge of the lake

The main highway used to go right over the dam, but the traffic got so bad and since 9/11, the authorities have gotten pretty schiztzy about cars on

The dam shot of Gale and me

The dam shot of Gale and me. The ventilator shaft was about halfway up the face of the dam

the dam.  So a bypass was built resulting in the beautiful bridge over the river.  Here is the official description of it.  “The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge) is the central portion of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. Construction on the nearly 2,000 foot long bridge (with a 1,060 foot twin-rib concrete arch) began in late January 2005 and traffic began using the Hoover Dam Bypass on October 19, 2010.  This signature bridge spans the Black Canyon (about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River.”  It’s a beautiful bridge, but you can’t see any view while driving across because of high medians and curbs.  One can walk in special lanes however.  I didn’t because I was leery of the height.  Just as we were leaving the dam area, we espied a small herd of bighorn sheep in a ravine.  They are majestic animals but they didn’t get close enough for a good photo op.  Anyway, they increased our total of bighorn sightings to 16.

After the dam tour, we took a side trip into Henderson to introduce Gale to Trader Joe’s.  They don’t have anything like this store in Montana and she was delighted to check it out.  We had a feast that night because of her purchases.

My last day there, we drove to Willow Beach, a nice campsite for tents and trailers (but with no shade, unlike Gale’s place with lots of trees) and a nice beach.  It’s below Hoover Dam a few miles.  Sissy was excited because she got to chase some mallards and even go for a swim in the cold water (about 55 degrees or less).  We had a nice picnic lunch and watched the river flow by for a while.  A mallard tickled us when he would cock his head, lean to the left and sit that way for several minutes.  Then he would cock his head, lean to the right and, again, sit that way for several minutes.  We never did figure out why he did this.  My friend, Dick, suggested he was posing for the lady mallards.  Who knows?

Lean to the left

Lean to the left

Lean to the right.  A pose for the ladies?

Lean to the right. A pose for the ladies?

Horsing around at Willow Beach

Horsing around at Willow Beach

A dirt road going west from our road back to Temple Bar beckoned us that afternoon.  A sign said “Wilderness Area” and we thought that sounded like a good adventure.  The “road” climbed steadily for a couple of miles before it ended in a small parking lot.  I put “road” in quotes because Gale had to use her 4 wheel drive in a few sections that had been washed out and it was pretty rough for a bit.  A hiking trail led to the Mt. Wilson wilderness Area from that little parking lot.  But the real reward was when we turned around to look at the road below us.  It was pretty clear and we could see for what seemed like forever.  I’m pretty sure we were looking at the White Hills, the Grand Wash Cliffs and points beyond.  We were never able to figure out if we could actually see the southern end of the Grand Canyon, but I would like to think we could.  If not, I think we could see almost to the end of it.  Whatever, the hills and mountains were multihued just as they are in the Canyon.

Wilderness Road with hills and mountains in the background

Wilderness Road with hills and mountains in the background

As we neared our camp, the sun was finally at my back and I could get a fairly decent picture of The Temple and a bit of the road into the camp.  I was fascinated with The Temple and how its appearance changed with the different light.  I would have liked to get up close and personal to it but didn’t have access to a boat.  Besides that, the water was pretty cold and I would not have liked to take a bath in it.

The Temple

The Temple

Temple Bar and its environs was an adventure that I really enjoyed…its distinct beauty, the stars, the silence (no TVs, few planes, no traffic noise etc.), the opportunity to learn many new things and being together with Gale and remembering old times while having new good times.  I thank Gale for inviting me out to visit her little kingdom at Temple Bar and sharing it with me.  It was fun!

Here's looking at you, kid!

Here’s looking at you, kid!

One Response to “Temple Bar, AZ and the Dam Tour”

  1. Dick February 12, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    Cora (and Gale, too) — Another superb edition of Buzzardnotes, this time from an enjoyable “snowbird” trip to the warmer climes of the Southwest American desert. Nice images of the landscape, fine photos of Sissy, and some dam fine photos from the ventilator shaft, including the two of you Chapman buddies. About Sissy: what a great face and eyes….love her markings, somewhat like a partial lunar eclipse. All in all, great to hear the buzz about your trip on Buzzardnotes.

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