Amelia Earhart once said, "Adventure is worthwhile in itself."

This belief paired with her love of flying enabled Earhart to achieve new heights in aviation history. Those who share Earhart's attitude about altitude will find a bounty of opportunities in Nevada to spread their wings.

From the north to the south, Nevada offers numerous ways to "get air." Whether you crave the thrill of bungee jumping, prefer a peaceful ride in a hot air balloon, or something in between, Nevada is home to a variety of air sports set above the state's beautiful, but rugged terrain. No matter where you go, Nevada always offers comfortable lodging, fine-dining and 24-hour entertainment nearby.


The people of Vanuatu in the Pacific had been throwing themselves from huge towers for centuries with nothing more than a few vines tied to their feet when the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club decided to perform a few experiments of their own in the 70s. A.J. Hackett saw a video of their attempts and before long teamed up with fellow speed skier Henry Van Asch, and the pair developed bungee into the modern sport it is today. In 1987, A.J. jumped from the Eiffel Tower and into the international spotlight. The bungee legend was born.

Bungee jumpers have two options in Southern Nevada. A.J. Hackett Bungy in Las Vegas provides a 171-foot platform from which jumpers can leap. A pool of water at the bottom helps quench the adrenaline rush. AJ Hackett Bungy is located next to Circus Circus Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Contact: 702/385-4321. www.ajhackett.com.


And then there is Thrillseekers Unlimited. Operated in Las Vegas by Hollywood stuntmen, this company offers a five-day Ultimate Extreme Vacation that includes bungee jumping, paragliding, firewalking, indoor skydiving, paintball, snowboarding or mountain boarding, motorized skate racing, rock climbing and a tandem skydive. Contact: Thrillseekers Unlimited, 702/699-5550 or 866/4-978-8686. www.thrillseekersunlimited.com


One of the best places to take to the air is Washoe Valley, located between Reno and Carson City, where the thermals lift hang gliders and paragliders high over the ranchlands, pine trees and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These strong thermals ­ warm wind currents - lift pilots well over 17,000 feet for superb views of scenic Northern Nevada. Contact: In Carson City, Adventure Sports, 775/883-7070. www.home.pyramid.net/advspts.

Southern Nevada also offers hang gliding experiences, instruction and sightseeing at Las Vegas Airsports, 702/260-7950. www.fly101.com.


Parasailing can be a thrilling experience open to all skill levels, and it's not uncommon for parasailors to soar 100 feet in the air before landing. Northern Nevada's parasailing outlets include two at beautiful Lake Tahoe: Action Watersports at South Lake Tahoe, 530/544-5387; and Incline Village, 775/831-4386, www.actionwatersports.com; and Lake Tahoe Parasailing at Tahoe City. 530/583-7245. www.laketahoeguide.com/pages/974037/97403793.html.



In Northern Nevada, Sierra Adventures educates its customers about the rich history and the breathtaking beauty of the Nevada desert and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range, turning a regular vacation into an unforgettable memory. Contact: Sierra Adventures in Reno at 775/323-8928. www.wildsierra.com

Experience the thrill of a tandem or solo skydive in one of Southern Nevada's three skydiving centers. Las Vegas Gravity Zone Skydiving Center offers the highest jump in Las Vegas, all the way up to 13,500 feet. Feel the air rush in your face as you jump and freefall through the air at 120 mph. Capture your jump with a custom music video and still photography. For more information, contact Las Vegas Gravity Zone at Jean Airport, 702/456-3802 or 888/903-5867. www.lvgravityzone.com

SkyDive Las Vegas will take you two miles up, where the view is amazing. From this vantage point in Southern Nevada, you'll see Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Colorado River, and the Las Vegas Strip while hovering above four states. Contact SkyDive Las Vegas in Boulder City, 702/759-3483 or 800/759-348-3483. www.skydivelasvegas.com.

For an indoor experience that simulates the freefall of skydiving, you'll want to check out Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. Flyaway is a 12-foot by 22-foot vertical wind tunnel where vertical airspeeds up to 120 mph allow you to fly indoors. Contact: Flyaway in Las Vegas, 702/731-4768 or 877/545-8093. www.flyawayindoorskydiving.com.



Adventure Balloon Tours reports that the first recorded balloon flight occurred in France in June 1783 when two brothers, Jacques Etienne and Joseph Michel Montgollier, sent a large, smoke-filled bag 35 feet into the air. Three months later, a duck, rooster and sheep became the first passengers in a balloon, since no one knew whether a human could survive the flight. The modern-day sport of hot-air ballooning evolved through research for the U.S. Navy in the 1960s and has enjoyed a remarkable comeback with development of a durable, inexpensive nylon for the envelope in combination with an improved and efficient propane burner system. Today, there are more than 5,000 balloon pilots in the United States alone.

Ballooning is a popular sport and recreational activity, and the backdrop for special events and celebrations including weddings, birthdays, holidays and promotions. The state is home to several ballooning companies. Contact: Lake Tahoe Balloons Inc., South Lake Tahoe, 530/544-1221 or 800/872-9294. www.virtualtahoe.com; Sierra Adventures in Reno, 775/323-8928. www.wildsierra.com; or Balloons Over Lake Tahoe, 530/544-7008. www.baloonsoverlaketahoe.com.

Southern Nevada offers four tour companies: Adventure Balloon Tours, 702/247-6905 or 800/346-6444, www.smilerides.com; Balloon Adventure Tours Las Vegas, 702/596-7582, www.sprintyellowpages/balloonlasvegas.com; D&R Balloons, 702/248-7609, www.dandrballoons.net; and Ultimate Balloon Adventures, 702-869-9999 or 800/793-9278. www.ultimateballoonadven.com.



Soaring is motorless flight achieved when a sailplane, manned by a trained pilot and up to two passengers, is towed behind a power plane and then released or launched by a bungee. The sail plane is left to glide and rely on the naturally occurring atmospheric lift to stay aloft and gain altitude. It's a thrilling yet tranquil way for aviation enthusiasts to enjoy flight. It's not uncommon to reach altitudes of more than 20,000 feet and distances of 1,000 kilometers. The Soaring Association of America's Web site, www.ssa.org, is a rich source of information about what it calls "the ultimate sport."


When visiting northern Nevada, contact High Country Soaring in Minden, 775/782-4944, www.highcountrysoaring.com; Palomino Valley Soaring in Sparks 775/475-2440, www.soar-palomino.com; Sierra Adventures, 775/323-8928, www.wildsierra.com; or Soar Minden, 775/782-7627 or 800/345-7627.

Southern Nevada soaring enthusiasts have two options: Las Vegas Soaring Center in Jean, 702/874-1010, www.lasvegassoaring.com; and Soaring Adventures of America, based out of Connecticut, 800/762-7646, www.800soaring.com.

Nevada's wealth of compelling natural resources and magnificent scenery make it ideal for outdoor recreation and adventure travel vacations. For more information, and to begin charting your course for air-based adventures over the Nevada desert, contact the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), 401 N. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada, 89701, or call 1-800/NEVADA-8 for a free Visitors' Guide. NCOT also offers a new Nevada adventure guide, "The Dirt: Your Nitty Gritty Down and Dirty Guide to Nevada, the Wildest Adventure State in the Lower 48," which is an ideal reference tool for outdoor adventures and activities of every kind and description in the Silver State. Free copies are available by calling 1-800/NEVADA8 or online at www.travelnevada.com.



Lake Mead NRA, AZ/NV

Yes, this is the Nevada desert. And no, it's not an optical illusion. Nor are your eyes playing tricks on you. While seemingly contradictory concepts, water sports and the Nevada desert have become the latest and perhaps most popular odd couple. For road-trippers and adventure-seekers alike, the Silver State offers a bounty of experiences for modern water sports, adventure and fitness enthusiasts, many of whom return again and again to satisfy their wanderlust on this windswept plain and on the waters within its boundaries.

With more public land than any of the lower 48 states, 314 mountain ranges and more than 620 miles of shoreline combined between Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead alone, your thirst for adventure will never go unquenched in Nevada.

There's something surreal and magical about the high desert in Nevada. Its richly hued, awe-inspiring vastness is replete with history of Native American tribes and is sometimes seen as a welcome getaway from sprawling modern suburbia. There's also something magical about water ­ anywhere you find it. Water strikes a primordial chord in humanity's soul.

So put them together ­ water and the high desert ­ in the way that Nevada does and you've got a recipe for a magical vacation unlike any you've ever known. Few places on earth offer the traveler this magnitude of cool, blue water contrasted with blazing, sun-drenched plains and majestic mountains.

Combine the state's network of 20 state parks, stretching from the mysterious Valley of Fire near Las Vegas to popular Lake Tahoe in northwestern Nevada . with a chain of starkly beautiful high desert lakes and Nevada's 300-plus days of sunshine each year, and it's easy to see why inspiration abounds year-round for open-water paddling (kayaking and canoeing), whitewater rafting and scuba diving.

If the thrill of discovery gets your heart pumping and youre a beginning to intermediate diver, Lake Tahoe's the place for you in Northern Nevada. Here, divers are drawn to the crystal-clear waters of North America's largest alpine lake­ affording visibility of 150 feet or more and an exciting view of Tahoe¹s distinct underwater features. At an altitude of 6,225 feet, Lake Tahoe is considered a high-altitude dive, so a quarter-inch wetsuit is recommended to insulate divers from water temperatures, which can plunge to 42 degrees at a depth of 100 feet. Dive experts recommend fall as the best diving season at Lake Tahoe, since water clarity is affected by spring runoffs. Divers are required to carry flags and be aware of boats. Remember that Tahoe straddles the Nevada and California state line, so your license should be valid in the part of the lake where you are diving.

Dive Into Dive GearWith water that's 99.9% pure, Lake Tahoe has a number of excellent locations for scuba diving. Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park near Incline Village is one of the most popular points. Its Divers Cove features an eerie landscape of sunken trees, caves and the remains of an old barge.

Cave Rock south of Sand Harbor offers an artificial reef where divers can witness schools of trout and other small creatures. Zephyr Cove is a good spot for beginning divers, who can search for old bottles and other treasures in the sandy bottom at a depth of 20 to 30 feet.

While in Northern Nevada, you'll find lodging at Stateline, Zephyr Cove, Incline Village, Crystal Bay, Minden, Gardnerville, Reno, Sparks and Carson City. Information about scuba diving in Lake Tahoe and a Lake Tahoe Dive Guide is available at www.stagelites.com/psb. If you're a beginner, you may want to consult guides in the area, including, SunSports Tahoe, 530/541-6000. www.sunsports-tahoe.com; Sierra Diving Center, 775/825-2147. www.sierradive.com; Tropical Penguins Scuba, 775/828-3483. www.tropicalpenguinscuba.com both in Reno; or Strictly Scuba in Carson City, 775/884-3483. www.divetahoe.com.

Southern Nevada offers a variety of options, all within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, for divers of all skills levels. The area encompasses Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and a portion of the Colorado River, and provides diving opportunities for both novice and advanced divers. The National Park Service recommends diving during cool winter months (October to April) when visibility ranges from 20 to 50 feet. From May to September, algae growth stimulated by warm water temperatures in the summer hinders visibility. A dive knife is recommended and caution is urged around boats and other hazards. A spectacular array of aquatic life, including bass, trout, perch, carp, crayfish, clams and freshwater sponges, makes your dive all the more fascinating.

The shores of Lake Mead meander through secluded coves, astonishing canyons and other desert features, adding an element of adventure to your dive. The waters below Dive Park at North Boulder Beach, where vessels and other objects rest at depths ranging from 30 to 110 feet, and at Boulder Islands, where divers can explore a cement tank that once stored water during the construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s, are reminders of the history that lies beneath an otherwise calm surface. At Saddle Island you can see and collect freshwater clams, and then continue your dives at Castle Cliffs-Gypsum Reef, Kingman Wash, Wishing Well Cove, Virgin Basin, Cathedral Cove and Black Canyon, a sheer wall that ascends some 500 feet.

Hard core divers will want to explore Lake Mohave's Black Canyon, where excellent diving conditions prevail, and advanced divers who are up to the challenge can check out Ringbolt Rapids, known for its swift water. You'll get the sense you're diving for buried treasure at Work Barge on the Arizona side, where a 38-foot tow barge sank in 1946. Nearby, at Cabinsite Point, two more boat wrecks await your exploration and discovery.

The Colorado River below Hoover Dam attracts divers of all skill levels to its currents and other features. The water, which comes from the bottom of Hoover Dam, runs a chilly 55 degrees, so most divers use wetsuits and dry suits. Currents and depths of the Colorado vary with the season and other conditions, so it's advisable to go with a guide. Guides include: Drew's Dam Divers in Boulder City, 702/452-5723, www.damdivers.com, and Neptune Divers of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, 702/452-5723, www.nevada-scuba.com. More information is available at www.nps.gov/lame/scuba.html. A variety of lodging is available in nearby Boulder City or glittering Las Vegas (take I-215/95 for about 35 miles to Hoover Dam.) Closer still to the river, Laughlin - fast becoming a water-sports mecca - features a number of hotels right on the Colorado River banks.



Heart-stopping, adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting may well be the dream of every man and woman on earth. Who hasn't envisioned testing his or her mettle on a bumpy, yet exciting journey across a fast-moving sea of foaming rapids?

Exciting river adventures, geared for every skill level, are part of Nevada's mystique and allure and make the Silver State a virtual wonderland for whitewater rafting. The East Fork Carson River in Northern Nevada offers a 30-mile stretch, suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters. Gentle rapids, dramatic rock formations and irresistible hot springs in the Wilderness Class II section make the 20-mile east fork of the Carson River a high-desert trip the whole family will relish. But, check water flows with the U.S. Forest Service before attempting it on your own. Other areas of the Carson River near Carson City, Dayton and Fort Churchill State Historic Park also offer kayaking and rafting. Be sure to scout a route and check with local officials and exercise caution.

Nearby lodging is offered at Stateline, Minden, Gardnerville, Reno, Sparks and Carson City and guide services are plentiful, whether you're coming from Nevada or California. In the Golden State, check out Tahoe Whitewater Tours in Tahoe City, 800/442-7238, www.gowhitewater.com or SunSports at South Lake Tahoe, 530/541-6000, www.sunsports-tahoe.com. On the Nevada side of the lake, which is home to the resort hotel-casinos, River Adventures and More (RAM), 800/466-7238, www.riveradventuresandmore.com, is your ticket to ride.

Running parallel to Interstate 80, the Truckee River offers numerous launch sites. Depending on the one you choose, this river, which sparkles along a 140-mile route from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, offers rafters at all levels (Class I, II and III) a typical run ranging anywhere from 8 to 15 miles. Some of the more popular put-ins are 18 miles west of Reno at the Farad exit, 10 miles west of Reno in Verdi and various locations east of that. After a day of adventure, bed down for the night in nearby Reno, Sparks or Incline Village. For equipment rental and guide information, contact: River Adventures and More (RAM), 800/466-7238, www.riveradventuresandmore.com, Tahoe Whitewater Tours, 800/442-7238, www.gowhitewater.com, or Truckee River Raft Rentals, 877/583-0123, www.truckeeriverraft.com.

In Southern Nevada, about 35 miles south of Las Vegas between Hoover Dam and Lake Mohave, the mighty Colorado River provides a fairly tame rafting run, but still packs a punch with occasional rapids and mind-blowing scenery. Ride with a guide or go it alone, but note that permits from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 702/293-8204, are required to launch below Hoover Dam. You can also arrange for pickup at the end of your excursion. Contact: Forever Resorts at 702/294-1414, www.foreverresorts.com for guide and rental information.



The crazy, lazy days of summer are best spent on the water in Nevada, where you can commune with nature as you catch a glimpse of on-shore wildlife in the most breathtakingly beautiful and serene settings you'll ever find.

Click for Outdoor GearNorthern Nevada offers plentiful opportunities for open-water paddling and a snapshot of natural history and culture of the native people who forged this land. At Lake Tahoe, a favorite among kayakers and visitors, there are numerous coves as well as shallow beaches and inlets that afford opportunities for all skill levels and offer intimate views of the crystal-clear waters, wildlife and warm sunsets.

Washoe Lake State Park, nestled between Reno and Carson City, presents off-the-beaten-path views of the towering mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada and some of the best bird watching on the planet, as you paddle through the wetlands. Geared mostly for beginners, the state park offers guided canoe trips.

A little further north, at Pyramid Lake - one of the largest freshwater lakes in the West - intermediate paddlers will discover new thrills as the lake's energy propels your craft. But, kayaking along an unspoiled coastline is not the only attraction. The Pyramid Lake Visitor Center is home to a museum devoted to the lake's natural history and the culture of the Native Americans, who live on the lands surrounding the lake. Here, visitors witness other-worldly rock formations and some of the most scenic desert views in all of Nevada.

All the equipment you'll need for your paddling adventures in Northern Nevada is available for rent at nearby guide shops, including: Reno Mountain Sports, 775/825-2855, www.renomountainsports.com; Sporting Rage in Carson City, 775/885-7773, www.sportingrage.com; and WRW Adventures in Minden 775/267-9157. In the Tahoe area check out Kayak Tahoe, 530/544-2011; Tahoe Paddle & Oar in Kings Beach, Calif. 530-\/581-3029; and Action Watersports of Tahoe at Incline Village 775/831-4386, www.action-watersports.com.




Not to be outdone, rural Nevada offers popular canoeing and kayaking spots in state parks, which offer boat launches and other amenities such as picnic tables and camping. Although nearly every lake, river and reservoir in rural Nevada is open to canoes and kayaks, there are fewer guides and equipment rentals. Be sure to bring your own boat and check regulations with local governing agencies. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a great source for ideas on where to kayak in rural Nevada. Call the Las Vegas BLM office at 702/515-5000, the Reno office at 775/861-6400, the Carson City office at 775/885-6000 or visit www.nv.blm.gov to find a list of field offices for Battle Mountain, Caliente, Elko, Ely, Tonopah and Winnemucca. Or contact the Nevada Division of State Parks in Carson City at 775/687-4384 before planning your trip.

The Lahontan State Recreation Area reservoir offers nearly 70 miles of shoreline and numerous opportunities for sightseeing and birdwatching, off U.S. Highway 50 just 18 miles west of Fallon or 79 miles from Reno. If camping's not your style, take the 15-minute trek to Fallon or Reno for overnight lodging. But don't forget to set your alarm. You don't want to miss the splendor of sunrise on the water!

Loons are an elusive lot. But, if you're bent on sneaking up on these birds, Walker Lake State Recreation Area is where to go. High winds signal that only advanced paddlers should test their skills on these waters, while the less-experienced will want to stick to the guided loon and bird-watching excursions offered by state park rangers. Every April the Loon Festival is held to mark the gathering of the largest inland concentration of migrating Common Loons in North America. To get to Walker Lake from Reno head south on U.S. Highway 95 to Hawthorne.

The 32-acre reservoir at Cave Lake State Park 15 miles outside of Ely, which sits amid the Schell Creek Range at an elevation of 7,300 feet, is a serene and majestic area for paddling. Alone or with a friend, the year-round park offers paddlers of all levels the right amount of adventure to test and satisfy.

Get a Bayou BronzeThe canyons, coves and spectacular landscapes of Lake Mead, the Colorado River and Lake Mohave make Southern Nevada's Lake Mead National Recreation Area the perfect spot for kayaks and canoes and uncommon journeys for the active traveler. The sight of elusive bighorn sheep clamoring along steep canyon walls and craggy, staircased canyons reveal the gentle beauty of nature that time forgot. Sometimes it's hard to tell where the water ends and the rock begins, but the incredible beauty of this wild place will implore you to try. Permits are required to launch below Hoover Dam and can be obtained through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 702/293-8204.

Nevada's wealth of compelling natural resources and magnificent scenery make it ideal for outdoor recreation and adventure travel vacations. For more information, and to begin charting your course for water-based adventures in the Nevada desert, contact the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), 401 N. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada, 89701, for a free Visitors' Guide. NCOT's new Nevada adventure guide, "The Dirt," is an ideal reference tool for outdoor adventures and activities of every kind and description in the Silver State. Free copies are available by calling 1-800/NEVADA8 or online at www.travelnevada.com.

— By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.

Nevada Tours and Adventures

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