Encompassing 1.5 million acres is Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The area features two reservoirs: Lake Mohave and Lake Mead, the largest man-made body of water in the United States. Located on the Colorado River, it is located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It holds about 28,500,000 acre feet of water and stretches for 110 miles behind the dam. It covers approximately 247 square miles and covers 550 miles of shoreline, when the lake is full.
Both the Hoover and Davis Dam create Lake Mead and Mohave. Originally named Boulder Dam Recreation Area, Lake Mead was named after the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Elwood Mead, who served on the board from 1924 to 1936 during the Boulder Canyon Project. The creation of Lake Mead forced residents out of communities, and the last to leave home was a resident in St. Thomas, Nevada in 1938. When Lake Mead’s water level drops below normal, the community’s debris can actually be seen.
Naturally, a body of water of this size receives about 7 to 8 million visitors annually, making it one of the most popular National Recreation Areas. It is open year-round at all hours of the day and charges a low-cost admission fee per vehicle. A wide array of activities are offered, including water skiing, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
The huge lakes cater to boaters, fishermen, and sunbathers while the desert caters to hikers and sightseers. There are currently eight marines that offer boat slip, boat, and house boat rental services to locals and visitors. There are about 8 campgrounds, 5 recreational vehicle campgrounds with hookups, and a few motels. For those who prefer taking the scenic route, the North Shore Road is the way to go.
The scenic drive is 40 miles long and starts at Lake Mead Blvd. and ends at Overton Beach. The drive is breathtaking, with views of the desert and the large lake. There is also a museum called the Lost City Museum, which houses exhibits of the Virgin Anasazi Native American group.
Lake Mead is threatened by the climate change and in February 2008 only held 50% of its full capacity, which is more than it has been since 2000. The average snowfall in Colorado has been declining steadily, causing less water to flow into Lake Mead once the snow melts. About 95% of the water that is in Lake Mead is created by melted snow from Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah.