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Top 9 Facts about Lake Mead in Nevada


Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of water capacity. This man-made Lake was created in 1935 from the Hoover Dam. It serves as a water reservoir for Arizona, California and Nevada states. 

Water from this lake sustains more than 20 million people as well as farmlands. Before it became a lake, it was part of the Colorado River and was named after Elwood Mead.  

The lake is found in Las Vegas, a city popularly known for casinos, restaurants, bright lights, and hosting epic parties. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

It is a sparkling oasis in the middle of the desert, such a welcoming relief from the heat and crowds in the city. The lake covers more than half a million acres of land.

Here are the top 9 facts about Lake Mead in Nevada.

1. The Land where Lake Mead is used to be home to Native Indians

The original settlers around the area where Lake Mead is used to be Native Americans. Archaeological artefacts have revealed that this group of people lived there between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Back then, the area had a cool and wet climate than it is today. They used to hunt animals as well as eat plants from their farms. 

Archaeologists also discovered remains of large mammals near a cave where the Lake’s present location. They are believed to be of ground sloth, horse, camel and mountain sheep. These animals provided animal proteins to the Native Americans.

Also, early explorers passed through this area to buy animal fur.

2. Lake Mead is man-made

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Unlike most Lakes that were forced after glaciers melted, Lake Mead was created by man. The area was way wetter than it is today since the Colorado River flowed through it.

This Lake was created in 1936 by the National Park Service. In 1947, they changed the name of the lake to Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Hoover Dam was built and as a result, rerouted the Colorado River to provide a water supply to the developing region. In the process, Lake Mead was created.

It is the largest water reservoir in the United States when it’s at full capacity from the Colorado River. Hoover Dam is about 30 miles from Las Vegas.

3.  The Lake was the first recreational area in America

This Lake is the fun central for swimming, boating, hiking, cycling, camping and fishing. The landscape around the lake is breathtaking with endless mountains, canyons, and valleys.

Another lake close to Mead is Lake Mohave and there are over 163,000 acres to explore. Types of fish you can catch here include the striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie, green sunfish and rainbow trout.

You need a license and trout stamp to participate in the southern Nevada fishing epicentre to fish here. There are nine developed areas on the lakes that offer a range of accommodation and services.

4. The Lake is named after Elwood Mead

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This Lake was named after the commissioner for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Elwood Mead. The name was later changed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Two more lakes were added Mohave and Shivwits Plateau. 

The land was reclaimed between 1924 to 1936 when they were planning the construction of the Boulder Canyon Project. It was also when the dam and lake were formed.

Elwood Mead died in 1936 and Lloyd Joseph Hudlow took over after and became the new project.

5. Lake Mead doubles as a Reservoir

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Lake Mead is not just a national park and recreation area but also a water reservoir. It was created to supply water for the increasing population of Las Vegas. The water was also used for irrigation.

The water came from the snow that melted from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Although the lake has never dried up, it has also not been at full capacity.

This is the second-largest United States after Lake Powell. This is only when it is at full capacity.       

The water from Lake Mead is used by 25 million people today.

6. Lake Mead has remains of World War II in it

Beneath the blue waters of Lake Mead are the remains of the B-29 bomber. The remains are from World War II aircraft relics. It was used for high-altitude atmospheric research when it crashed into the Lake in 1948.

To see these relics, you will need to scuba dive into the lake. Lake Mead is one of the best freshwater lakes in the United States for Scuba diving. There are different depth levels and sites for divers to explore.

7. The Lake has not been at full capacity for a while

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The water level in Lake Mead has steadily declined. This decrease in water level is caused by the loss of the surplus water that once made up for the annual overdraft.

In 2010, the lake was at 39% of its capacity, it only increased in 2012 from 1,095 feet to 1,134 feet. This was after there was heavy snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains.

The Lake got to its lowest level between 2014 and 2016. If the lake’s water is below the elevation level at the beginning of the water year; an official shortage is declared. Water year starts on October 1.

8. It has the best spots for camping and hiking

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The Lake Mead Recreation Area provides shaded picnic tables, barbeques, water, and restrooms for visitors. There are also Individual and group campsites for those that would want to extend their stay.

There are nine sections of the lake in the Las Vegas desert. Each region offers a different camping experience to the visitors. For instance, the Black Canyon area has archaeological resources.

Another is the Eldorado region which is full of steep mountains and craggy cliffs, it is also near the Colorado River. The Ireteba Peaks region has isolated valleys and flat sedimentary fans. The valley is home to the threatened desert tortoise.

9. There is a city buried under Lake Mead

Other than the World War II aircraft relics found under the lake, there is a sunken city too. The city was covered in water after the people living there were evacuated to create more land for the lake.  

In 1865, there were settlers around the Colorado River who had established farms, homes and stores. The town was known as St. Thomas.

The last residents of St. Thomas left in 1938 to allow the creation of the lake. Water quickly submerged the city and the area is now Lake Mead.

Part of the submerged city can be seen today since the lake is not in full capacity. You can tour on foot part of the city that is more than 150 years old.