The city of Las Vegas is known for many things, including its bright lights, mega-casinos, restaurants, shows, and epic parties. However, one thing you might not know about Sin City is that it’s surrounding by national and state parks that boast the most stunning scenery and natural beauty. Not what you’d expect when you think about the flashing neon lights of Las Vegas, right?
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is only about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip just outside of Hoover Dam. It’s a striking, sparkling oasis in the middle of the desert that brings some welcome relief to the heat and crowds of the city. If you’ve never had a chance to visit, it’s definitely worth a look the next time you’re in Las Vegas. To entice you even further, here are seven fun facts you may not know about Lake Mead:
1. It's Not Natural
Interestingly, Lake Mead is not a product of long-ago melting glaciers or underground springs. Before its creation, the area was populated by Native American cultures as far back as 10,000 years ago. Back then, it was a wetter, cooler environment where the Colorado River abundantly flowed.
When Hoover Dam was built, it required that the Colorado River be slowed and rerouted in order to provide a water supply to the developing region. This process filled the surrounding area with water to create Lake Mead.
2. It's Enormous
Lake Mead Recreational Area not only encompasses the lake itself, but it also includes Lake Mohave, Las Vegas Bay, and surrounding lands. All totaled, the entire area covers 1.5 million acres! In addition, like Hoover Dam, Lake Mead stretches across state borders. So, if you're boating along its blue waters, you can cross between Nevada and Arizona several times.
3. It Was the Former Home to Pioneers
In 1865, one year after Nevada became a state, pioneers looking to expand into the unknown territories of the West settled a town on the banks of the Colorado River called St. Thomas. However, it was abandoned in 1938. Eventually, the town's structures were submerged by the growing waters of Lake Mead.
Today, the town is no longer underwater and has been exposed for curious minds to explore. That means visitors to Lake Mead can tour parts of this area that is more than 150 years old.
4. You Can Scuba Dive
It's not your imagination if you've seen Las Vegas hotel guests heading somewhere with scuba gear. Lake Mead has been ranked as one of the top freshwater lakes in the U.S. for scuba diving. It offers several depths and submerged sites for divers to explore. One of these is a B-29 Superfortress bomber from World War II. Keep in mind, though, that people interested in going into this area need to be part of a guided tour.
5. It's a Boating Paradise
People don't think of Las Vegas as a location for water sports. Yet, with its restaurants and rows of boats, Las Vegas Bay Marina feels like something you'd visit in California or Florida. Boats of all sizes cruise the waters of Lake Mead. This includes a Mississippi River-style paddle wheeler that offers various dining and sightseeing packages. And, for those who want to spend more than one day on the lake, houseboats are available for rent.
6. It's a Reservoir
Lake Mead is not just a national park and recreation area. One of the reasons it was created was to supply water for the influx of citizens and visitors to Las Vegas and the surrounding regions, as well as a means of irrigation. So, how does it get its water?
The primary source of water comes from hundreds of miles away. Each year, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah experience snowmelt. This water flows into areas of the 1,450-mile Colorado River and gets deposited into Lake Mead. Of course, how much water depends on the amount of snowfall that year. Still, Lake Mead has never been empty since its creation, even during years of drought.
7. Great Environmental Diversity
Because it's so large, visitors to the area can experience many different environments. For instance, the Boulder Basin is the most recognizable and visited part of the area due to its location near Las Vegas and Henderson. The northern portion of the lake, Overton Arm, is a tranquil area that's home to bald eagles over the winter.
Schedule a Tour to See Lake Mead
Does this all sound intriguing to you? If so, Gray Line Las Vegas provides half- and full-day tours to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, and will pick guests up directly from their Las Vegas hotels in a luxury air-conditioned motor coach. You can choose to cruise the lake on the paddle wheeler Desert Princess, or even tour the area via helicopter. Contact the Gray Line Las Vegas team or visit the tour section of our website for prices and further information.