Paddle Power

There are numerous coves and beaches to explore along the Colorado River, but one of the most sought-after spots is Emerald Cave, within the Black Canyon.
The shimmering emerald water is stunning in the afternoon light and therefore has become a hotspot for kayakers, boaters, and jet skiers to stop off and snap a few photos. The cave is fairly small, so to enter it, a kayak or paddleboard is your best option.
Robert Finlay, owner and guide of Kayak Lake Mead, took us for a trip up to the cave and shared his knowledge of the land and the sport on the way.
Finlay always has been in love with fitness and outdoor activities, being an avid runner and rock climber from a young age. He picked up kayaking in 1987 and began competing in long-distance races.
As we started in for our trip from Willow Beach Marina, Finlay shared his adventures in a 300-mile race he has completed nine times, called the Everglades Challenge. The challenge is a two-man race, and Finlay paddles in a tandem kayak with his son, Druce Finlay. Out of nine races, their team has taken first place seven times.
Finlay relays his tales of the sea in his blog, Hearing his accounts are quite amazing, as he explains how he fought through the physical hardships — paddling for hours on 30 minutes of sleep, a knee injury, arm cramps and more — to not only complete these long-distance races, but dominate the competition.
This guy is not happy unless he is planning his next expedition, and he brings that fun and adventurous spirit to his tours as well.
Finlay offers a variety of kayak tours through Black Canyon and up to Lake Mead, and each tour is customized to his customers’ interests and may include extras like hiking or a soak in some hot springs. He also offers a moonlight paddle trip for an extra special nighttime experience.
He provides life vests and all kayaking equipment for his tours, and can accommodate groups of one-seven people.
We took the half-day Black Canyon tour, which consisted of a two-mile paddle upstream to Emerald Cave and two miles back to Willow Beach, our put-in point. Willow Beach is about 76 miles from Laughlin.
We stopped along the way for a short hike up to a lookout spot for a spectacular view of the canyon. Finlay also pointed out some flora and fauna in the area, including an eagle whose nest was nearby.
We got back in our kayaks and headed the rest of the way to Emerald Cave, where we stopped to enjoy the beauty of the area and Finlay gave us a demonstration of a “storm roll” and “high braces,” advanced techniques for rough water.
After circling through the cave, we stopped at the adjacent Emerald Cove to have lunch and take a swim. The water is pretty frigid, but on a 100-degree day it felt nice to hop in for a minute, so we recommend wearing a swim suit under your clothes just in case.
The tide helped us along for the return trip, so we cruised back downstream as Finlay shared more stories of his adventure races. All in all, the trip was a great way to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty. With the addition of Finlay’s knowledge of the area and his extreme true stories, this tour is a real treat.
For those adventure seekers who like to push the limit like Finlay, he also offers a fitness vacation that combines distance kayaking, canyon running, speed trekking, and sometimes mountain biking. It is a one to three day trip, that like all his tours, can be altered to fit your needs.
With his years of experience, you will surely feel safe with Robert as your guide even if you never have picked up a paddle before.
Aside from his tours, he also offers kayaking lessons where he teaches the basics of paddling but also instructs his pupils how to recover from tipping over, different rolls and braces, and techniques for safety and endurance.
Make sure to book your tour in advance, as Finlay is typically booked out for a month. To browse his site and sign up for a tour, visit