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Kayaking near Vegas on the Colorado River turns up a cave with emerald waters

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Two kayaks make their way down the Colorado River through Black Canyon, a narrow rock cut that begins just below Hoover Dam.
(Danny Latham)

Lapland has the northern lights. Yosemite has a moonbow that forms over its waterfalls. Now the Colorado River near Hoover Dam claims that waters inside a small cave turn a brilliant emerald green at certain times of the day.

Vegas Glass Kayaks, 35 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, offers river tours that introduce guests to the geological features and wildlife of the region just south of Hoover Dam. The highlight is a trip to Emerald Cave, which is accessible only by boat.

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The Colorado River’s water glows green around a guest seated in a clear kayak inside Emerald Cave.
(Danny Latham)

“[The sunlight] reflects off the river bottom and lights up a normally dark cave in this brilliant emerald green color,” said company founder Danny Latham. “It makes everything glow this emerald color: the water, the walls, everybody in it.”

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The water glows during a couple hours each day between April and October when the sun’s rays shoot down through the 700-foot canyon walls.

The paddle to Emerald Cave leaves from Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river. Departures are timed to reach the cave while the water shines bright green.

Between six and eight kayaks at a time can float inside the small cave.

The four-mile round-trip tour is offered year-round, and lunch is included.

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Vegas Glass Kayaks (VGK) offers several tours that introduce guests to both the geological features and the wildlife of the region just south of Hoover Dam.

While other tour operators ply the same water, what makes Vegas Glass Kayaks different is its see-through kayaks. They’re made of polycarbonate, not glass (despite the name), and they travel along stretches of the Black Canyon Water Trail, a 30-mile portion of the Colorado River managed by the National Park Service.

“We really try to eliminate the feeling that you’re in a boat. Because our boats are clear, it gives you much more of a sense of oneness with the water,” Latham said. “You’re sitting in the water, but you’re not wet.”

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Bighorn sheep can often be spotted as they head down the rock faces to sip the edges of the Colorado River.
(Danny Latham)

While other tour operators ply the same water, what makes Vegas Glass Kayaks different is its see-through kayaks. They’re made of polycarbonate, not glass (despite the name) and they travel along stretches of the Black Canyon Water Trail, a 30-mile portion of the Colorado River managed by the National Park Service.

The longest and most-challenging trip, the Black Tour, takes people on a 12-mile paddle that begins within sight of the massive dam.

The 10-hour trip covers roughly 12 miles and includes stops for short hikes on canyon trails and a refreshing plunge into a natural hot spring. Bighorn sheep are commonly seen and a lucky few may even spot bald eagles.

A custom lunch is also included (participants order what they want in advance).

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LED lights that wrap around the rim of the kayaks provide the only source of light, beside the moon, during Vegas Glass Kayaks’ seasonal Neon Tour on the Colorado River.
(Danny Latham)

The Black Tour costs $295 per person, plus $52 for permit and escort fees. The journey ends at Willow Beach Harbor, on the Arizona side of the river.

By far the most popular tour, the Emerald Tour, takes six hours and costs $195.

During the warmer months — and by pre-arrangement of the date, to coincide with the stages of the moon Latham also gives visitors an opportunity to paddle on the Colorado River in darkness, the only illumination provided by moonlight and colored LED lights installed in the kayaks.

“I retrofitted all the boats with a waterproof, LED lighting system that goes around the entire rim of the boat,” he said. “The boats themselves end up lighting all the water around you … and it also lights up all the canyon walls.”

The Neon Tour departs roughly half an hour before sunset from April to October. The price, $195, includes a campfire with s’mores on Willow Beach following the journey.

Transportation from and to Strip hotels is included with all tours.

Info: Vegas Glass Kayaks, (877) 907-1715

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travel@latimes.com

@latimestravel


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