Sure, Las Vegas is home to some of the most stunning interior spaces in the world. But we’re not just a city of indoor folk who commute between desk, couch and casino. We’re also a city of outdoor adventurers. Meet six Southern Nevadans who explore the wild places beyond the edges of suburbia. They climb to mountainous heights, paddle down the Colorado River, overcome their fears and push physical limits. Each confronts the sublime in a unique way—and hopefully compels the rest of us to discover our own adventures.
The challenges of wilderness kayaking are also its joys. “It can be windy, rainy, 120 degrees, with a lot of grouchy creatures—snakes and scorpions,” says Izzy Collett, owner/CEO of Boulder City-based outfitter Desert Adventures. “I don’t like to use a tent, so I wake up with a lot of bug bites. It’s part of the experience.”
Collett grew up on a river in Salina, Utah. After school, she’d skip rocks, play with minnows and catch tadpoles. As an adult, she built a career on returning to her roots in nature, and helping others do the same.
The avid outdoorswoman became “hooked immediately” on kayaking after a magical experience in British Columbia, where she paddled with sea otters. Kayaks offered an additional advantage for the onetime backpacker: You can fit way more stuff into a kayak than a backpack, and you don’t have to carry it. This helped with multi-day trips down rivers.
“Teaching is most rewarding part of my job,” says Collett, who has been a river guide since her early 20s. “You’re educating your guests and the public on water issues, the importance of leaving no trace and how to keep an area sustainable. I love teaching the staff.”
River guide and instructor Regina Dietrich has worked for Desert Adventures for six years. “I’ve learned pretty much everything there is to know about kayaking in our area from Izzy,” she says. “We all try to follow her example and be stewards of the river out here.”
Desert Adventures ends up serving mostly tourists, but Collett has a message for us locals: If you want these public areas protected, let your representatives know. “The Colorado River and many of our public recreational lands are under constant threat from hungry developers, mining companies, urban sprawl and drought, to name a few. National parks are being overwhelmed with visitation, as people search to escape the cities and be in wild natural places ... Even just one voice can make a difference. Don’t be a bystander. Speak up.”