Lake Mead is a 79-year-old reservoir created by the Hoover Dam.
As one of the biggest man-made reservoirs in the Western hemisphere, it enjoys more visitors per year than either Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. And even as the drought in the west deepens bringing lake levels to an historical low, the tourists continue to flow into the park.
Old West of St. Thomas
One of the tourist draws that keeps tourists coming to the shrinking lake happens to be the ruins of the Old West town of St. Thomas which was founded by Mormon pioneers in 1865.
This town was once a thriving settlement and has been hidden for decades beneath the lake’s surface. In fact, Lake Mead National Recreation Area public affairs officer Christie Vanover has said that in the 1890s, the town would have been covered by 100 feet of water.
Visiting St. Thomas
With water levels at all-time lows, tourists are able to hike one mile across the desert to explore the remains of the long-forgotten town of St. Thomas. Like many Old West towns, it has some interesting history.
Vanover says, “Things got a little wild out here. There were some horse thieves. There were some cattle rustlers.”
New Beaches and More
While the water levels at Lake Mead continue to diminish, it also leaves behind new beaches to enjoy along with recently exposed coves and other places to explore. The low water levels make it easier for divers to access parts of St. Thomas still submerged below the water, too.
Visitors to Lake Mead should bring plenty of sun screen and plan on hot dry weather. The park is located where three desert ecosystems come together: the Mojave, the Great Basin, and the Sonoran deserts.
It is home to a variety of animal species and plants including the Joshua tree, with wildlife including the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep. It’s situated outside of Las Vegas and still offers plenty to do even with the drought.