Chad Taylor is the director of sales and marketing for Lake Mead, Mohave Adventures, and grew up on Lake Mead, when his dad was the general manager of Callville Bay Marina in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States, but is currently at historically low levels as the population in the southwest continues to grow and the region faces continued drought conditions.
Today we’re sitting at Callville Bay Marina, which is one of seven of our properties here in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
These days [I’m grateful] that I’ve been able to make it through some of the trials and tribulations in life that I’ve been through. Gratitude gets me out of bed these days, the ability to wake up and be able to experience and take part in what’s happening daily.
I remember pictures of me, as a newborn on the lake, on a houseboat with my parents. My father, Rod Taylor, started the marina business just a few years before I was born, and he’s been doing it ever since.
The current property that you’re sitting on, Callville Bay Marina, has been here for quite a while and it was originally owned by Rex Maughan through Forever Resorts. And Rex just recently passed. But before that happened, a company by the name of Guest Services out of Fairfax, Virginia came in and purchased the company from Forever Resorts. So while my father and I were with Forever Resorts previously, we are now with Guest Services. We came over with the sale and helped that transition. And that was probably one of the most unique experiences I was ever able to be a part of watching. One 100 year old company selling to another 100 year old company was insightful to say the least.
The integrity that comes along with a 100 year old company is mind blowing. We live in Las Vegas. I see a lot of companies come and go every day. I watch how people operate in Las Vegas. Everything’s for the quick dollar, but to watch two outdoor recreation, hospitality-based companies that have been around for that long do business together and transact and sell a product to another was inspiring. It was absolutely inspiring.
Currently, we have seven of the nine properties that are located within the Lake Mead-Mojave area. So Lake Mead is above the dam. Lake Mojave is below the dam. Lake Mead is a holding reservoir and Lake Mojave is more of a pass through. That lake only fluctuates about 10 feet up or down a year, but it’s pretty much always full. So the secret right now is that if you go to Willow Beach or Cottonwood Cove, you have an absolutely full lake. And just on the other side of the dam, you have Lake Mead, which is declining, obviously.
We removed the marina from Echo Bay and that marina’s now down here at Callville Bay. There just wasn’t enough business and water up north. It was coming down quickly and the traffic wasn’t there.
Cottonwood Cove and Willow Beach have not had to adjust. They have to deal with the flood still from the big rainstorms. Callville, Temple and Echo. Those are the three that have had to make the adjustments. The landscape and the visuals are still appealing and beautiful. The sunsets. As I mentioned, the water was getting too low to sustain the marina [at Echo Bay]. So we ended up moving the marina down here to Callville. We still have fuel on land up there. We still have a small store. We still have a small team and a staff. We have an RV park and it stays pretty busy.
When we lost the launch, Temple Bar was still a fun place to go and is still a California retreat. Losing that long ramp was kind of a significant blow to Temple. However, we’re seeing that the immediate impact is starting to change a little bit and people are starting to come back. Between COVID, the water levels and losing the launch ramp, it all happened really quickly. Now that people are starting to settle down again, they’re starting to realize, “Hey, there’s still something there for us.” We still have a motel. We still have a restaurant. It has one of the most beautiful RV parks—probably unknown to most people—run by the national park service.
The locals are the ones that came there every year. They come out with their families to get away from the city. Temple Bar has a great following that way.
In reality, I’ve never experienced losing a launch ramp. In my years in this business, this is a first for me. We’ve had launch ramps go very low and found ways to continue to still launch boats. Based on, I would say legislation that I’m unfamiliar with, over the last 24 years, maybe even 30 years, that’s changed. Environmental impact and other underlying factors. We’re not allowed to just extend long tramps or move dirt without going through the proper channels.
Not only did we not have the ability as the concession specialist, but the national park also has constraints and has to work within some guidelines through DC, right? So there are water feasibility impact studies, far outside of my realm of knowledge. All I know is we have to follow the rules. I think that the National Park Service works extremely hard at trying to ensure access. People think they don’t, but they do
These are our public lands. So we always do the best we can to follow their lead and work within the guidelines that we have and work together. I think Guest Services as a concession specialist does very well at that, which is why they have the contracts that they have. It’s truly a partnership. So at this point, we’re letting that kind of play itself out. I do believe they’ll find a way to extend access for these ramps and get boats back in the water. It’s my humble opinion, but I think they will have the best intentions,
We have almost a thousand feet to move the [Callville] marina this summer alone. It started the first part of this year. I think maybe it was 800 feet. Yesterday we moved the marina about 80 [more] feet. So we release the winches, fire up three or four barges, a couple houseboats, and we start pushing.
This is all floating dock structure. There are anchors that we drop to the bottom. And then we tie off to anchors. So there’s an anchor system for the entire marina. It takes a heck of a team. And the team here at Callville does a really good job. We have divers and they’re moving the marina on a daily basis right now, and they will be all year because of the water levels.
It’s moving pretty quickly. We’ve watched it gradually decline over the last 25 years. Until the last 24 months, it always was gradual. This is a little quicker than I expected, for sure.
I’ve watched the water levels at different lakes throughout the west coast and been involved with it. I go snowboarding in the wintertime and I visit the mountains and I watch the snow pack every year and I have yet to see a vast difference in the annual snow pack. In rainfall, yes. I’ve seen a difference in rainfall. It’s definitely become more arid here in the desert, a lot less moisture year after year. So I I’m on board with that. As far as the Rockies and the west side of the Rockies specifically, which feeds us, I’m not quite sure. I feel like the inflow should be somewhat similar year after year because of the snow pack and the melt that we get in the north.
For me, I feel this is two parts. I feel like this lake was built or conceived a hundred years ago for this exact purpose. So if you think about it that way, it’s doing exactly what it was meant to do. It was built as a reservoir, as a backup for water needs. And it’s taken almost 30 years now to run it from a full pool down 200 feet, 180 feet, whatever it’s down.
So a hundred years ago, they decided let’s build this big reservoir and they did. 1984 was the last time it was full. It didn’t start really declining probably until 1995, 96. It’s taken this long to go down 170 feet and we still have another 400 or 500 feet to go. Now does that change some things? Sure. But it’s doing exactly what it was supposed to do.
Then, if we take that last 30 years and we ask ourselves what has changed downstream over the last 30 years? I bet if you did those numbers—and I’m not the guy—but I bet if you did them, I would think that it’s potentially more of a consumption problem than it is an inflow problem.
So that would be my humble opinion. And I think that if we looked at that—and I think they actually are. I’m sure everybody is. They’re all trying to figure it out right now, which is great. And someone will come up with a solution. I think it’ll work itself out. So it’s not dooms day for me. It’s just, “This too shall pass,” as Rod Taylor would say.
[I was a] lake half full guy all the time. And actually at this point, I’m an overflowing river guy. We’re below half full at this point, but we are definitely overflowing as a river. So, the way I look at it is, this lake is beautiful. It’s gorgeous. I don’t want people to stop recreating because of perception. There’s so much water here. There’s so much surface area. There’s still so much shoreline. There’s an enormous amount of space for people to come out and recreate.
So if this lake continues to drop until we find the correct solution—which we will. If we’ve proved anything about humanity, it is we figure out how to fix our problems. It may take us some time, but we get it done. It’ll fix itself. Don’t stop recreating or enjoying the natural resource that you have because of perception that it’s not good. Come out and enjoy it every minute. And like I said, pretend it’s an overflowing river at this point. And then your perception will change about what there is to enjoy here. And if it ever does get as low as a river, you’ll still have a full river.
You have different types of guests or different types of outdoor recreational enthusiasts. You have the people who do this for a living. This is their life. It becomes somewhat depressing to us when we look at it. We have to make a conscious effort to make it a positive. Because we remember what it used to look like…
You look out this window. I told you, I used to swim laps outside this door, here. So when you remember those good times, I bet it’s just like reflecting on any childhood memory. When you have a good or a fond memory of something that changes, now you have to adjust your thought process for it. So for those long time, avid boaters, we look at this and we have to adjust that perspective and go, “okay, we still have plenty of water.”
And then get down on the water, go out on the lake. You lose sight of what it appears to be. And you get back into what it actually is and it always was for those who don’t use the lake on a daily basis or a yearly basis, or thinking about doing it for a vacation, something that’s new. It’s a much harder sell to them because the tan line is touted as the world’s coming to end. And we’re in a drought and Lake Mead is empty.
So overcoming that as a company is definitely a challenge. And I guess like anything else in life, the only thing that’s gonna help that is education. The more people know, the more they’ll understand it. And hopefully the more joy they can receive from coming out and using the natural resource that is theirs and is still here and is not going away anytime soon, no matter what anybody says.
For me and my family, it’s kind of like Lake Mead is the new greatest treasure hunt ever. I have three wedding rings living out here on the beach somewhere and lately we’re taking the girls out and we’ve been taking the meters across the beach. I swore to my wife, I was going to find it one day. So yeah, just the exploration period. We’re able to see things that we haven’t been able to see in a hundred years. How often do you get that opportunity?
We, as a company, have been doubling and tripling down on our fleets and our rentals, our small boats, our kayaks, our canoes, our watercraft. We’ve even moved some boats around from lake to lake, having the National Park Service ensure that we can provide access still. Having enough resources to provide people with the ability to go out and recreate is important to us. So we continue to invest as the lake is still declining, we’re investing more and more money into our assets that are on water, because essentially now with all of the launch ramps closed, all the properties are still open, but the actual physical launch ramps for somebody to launch their own boat is closed.
So, given that I do believe people still want to recreate. I do think they want to come out to the lake. So, we’re trying to make it cost effective. We’ve adjusted and looked at our pricing. We’ve bought new boats, we’re doing everything we can to provide enough vessels so that the people that do want to recreate still can.
There is a low water plan through the National Park Service and with the company. At some point, if the marina no longer can survive inside of the bay, it would definitely have to be moved more out into the channel. Not something I can really talk on, but it’s common sense, right?
And again, I keep going back to Mother Nature. Life is cyclical, so she may fix herself. She may fix this issue for us, or somebody may fix this issue before we get to that point. But there are strategic plans in place to ensure that we can remain open and provide services to the public.
Top of mind for me is I wish that we could—and it’s a very personal one—but I really wish that we could balance the environmental with the outdoor activity that would allow us to utilize it a little more than we currently do.
In the desert, there’s a lot of “don’t disrupt the crust,” “keep the environment the way it is,” “stay on the trails.” There’s a lot of things that I do not understand on that side of it. However, there’s so much room to recreate out here. We’re very limited on where you can and can’t go. Someday I hope that that kind of evolves and whether it’s humans taking better care of the landscape, so they’re allowed to roam a little more freely or whatever it is. I wish personally that that could open up a little bit because there is so much beauty and resource out here to be able to be used. Confining it to one property or another is not fair to the landscape.
But obviously you can get on a boat and go wherever you want. So I can get you there by water. Like I said, I don’t see a day that I don’t do this. I’ve grown up on lakes. Lakes are my thing. I love them. And I’m just here taking it in day by day.
My thought of the media—based on what they do to my environment currently—I’ll put it kindly. I don’t take kindly to it. I take it personally. It’s almost like an attack on the livelihoods of so many people out here in the parks and the businesses when it’s just a negative.
So that’s my immediate thought process when it comes to the media or the news cycle. However, every person that I’ve sat with and done an interview with, or actually got to sit down and talk to, I have had an absolutely opposite experience as to what I thought it should be or what I thought they would do or how they would portray what was going on. So it’s kind of a dichotomy for me.
It’s a challenge for me. I watch them treat us unfairly every day on mainstream media and news. There’s not the full story, but it’s perception. So again, what I want to think and what is, are two different things.
Each one of us have our wants and our needs. For me, how I was raised, what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced…my story, if you will…if we could get the younger generation outdoors more and not talk so much about it going away, but what opportunities we have now to come out here. As I look out here across the water, or the lack of, I see a cleanup, right? I see things that need to be picked up and things that need to be adjusted. Help, pick it up, because it’s going to fill back up one day. It will. And when it does, all that stuff doesn’t need to be underwater.
[There are] opportunities now to really involve and engage different companies. Get Outdoors Nevada is one of the nonprofits that we work with in Las Vegas, who do a really good job with the national park and engage with these organizations and come out here and do what needs to be done. Now for me, that will help educate people on what this is and then give them a sense of pride and ownership as it starts to continue to change or as it starts to come back up. So I think we spend a lot of time talking about how bad it’s going to be instead of how great it is right now.
-Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person?
-Is there a place that you love that has changed through the years?
-How have you needed to change your perception of a place in the face of change?
-Would the perception of drought impact your decision to recreate in Lake Mead or Lake Powell?
-How do we find the right balance between preservation, recreation and economics? Who gets to choose?
-Have you ever felt like your story was told unfairly by the media? Or a story you care deeply about?
-How do you educate yourself about water issues?
-What are the opportunities you see in the lower water levels of Lake Mead?