Amelia Earhart once said, "Adventure is worthwhile in itself."
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.
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.
Southern Nevada also offers hang gliding experiences, instruction and sightseeing at Las Vegas Airsports, 702/260-7950. www.fly101.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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.