We drove along the lake on our way from Vegas to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon in mid-January. Their is a $10 fee which buys a National Parks Service 7 day pass which does not cover Nevada Sate Parks (like Valley of Fire) or the Grand Canyon, but was worth it anyways. We did not have to pay extra when we went into the Hoover Dam site, so perhaps this fee covered that, though there was no gate for the entrance off the Interstate. The vistas and road were good with ample opportunities for pics at roadside turnouts and picnic areas. They have tried to keep the area in its natural state, but the fact that it exists because of an unnatural lake is sort of unavoidable. Watch for birds as there are eagles and water fowl aplenty. There are designated beach areas which when we visited were largely deserted despite the blue skies and calm weather and 60 degree plus temperatures. My guess is that this whole place get a lot busier between March and October.
The visitor's center is located at the Boulder City end of the Parkway just before you exit the park. It was pretty low key with a reception area and classroom sized display area which includes a large plaster map of Lake Mead, as well as displays related to the history and geology of the area. There is also a 10 minute movie in a dedicated theater which probably seats 100. The staff were locals who seemed to know a lot about their corner of the world directly, but little about it in terms of the larger picture (world, content). This may have been because some of them were volunteers, but I hope not. They did seem interested in what they were doing. If I scored the entire park based on the visitor's center it would have been 3 (average) because the presentations and displays are dated and getting tired (10-15 years old). Adding interactivity with iPod and Android devices would go a long way in improving the currency of this place, especially with up and coming environmental stewards. I ended up scoring it at 4 because it is a clean and protected area close to a large city in a time when such things are getting harder to find.
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