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Why is Lake Mead One of the Deadliest Places in the US?

Why is Lake Mead One of the Deadliest Places in the US?

What is Lake Mead?

Lake Mead is a man-made lake in the United States created by the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. It gets its name from Elwood Mead, the US Bureau of Reclamation commissioner. The lake is currently at its lowest point since 1938 due to drought conditions.

Lake Mead is 1,044.03 feet above sea level and has a capacity of 1,229 feet when full. The water that fills Lake Mead comes from Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. There is a concern for a dead pool if there is a prolonged drought.

History of Lake Mead

Lake Mead is an artificial lake created by the Hoover Dam in the early 1930s. The dam was built to provide electricity and water for desert city residents. The dam created the Lake Mead and Lake Mohave reservoirs. The recreation area was first called the Boulder Dam Recreation Area in 1936. Lake Mead has been incomplete since 1983 and is predicted never to be whole again. The decreased demand for water has caused recreational facilities to be closed or relocated.

Lake Mead has been the site of lost cities and people for centuries. The Ancient Puebloans were the first people to live at Lake Mead. The Pueblo Grande de Nevada was abandoned around 150 years ago and is now known as the “Lost City.” In 1827, Jedediah Smith found artifacts while exploring the area.

The Lost City Museum is a National Park Service facility dedicated to preserving the history of the Pueblo people. The Lost City pueblo is partially submerged under Lake Mead.

The town of St. Thomas was about to be submerged when it was founded in 1865, but new settlers began farming the rich soil, and St. Thomas came back to life in the 1880s. St Thomas’ peak population was around 500 people before it was abandoned again.

hoover dam on lake mead


What are the dangers of Lake Mead?

1. Low water levels

The main danger of low water levels in Lake Mead is the possibility of a “dead pool” scenario. This will happen if the water level in the reservoir gets so low that it can no longer flow downstream.

Drought is a primary concern in Lake Mead because it could lead to even lower water levels. This could cause problems for millions of people who rely on the lake for drinking water. Another danger of low water levels is that providing enough water for communities that depend on it could be challenging.

2. Poor water quality

Poor water quality in Lake Mead can have several negative impacts. Swimmers and divers exposed to high levels of bacteria in the water can experience a variety of illnesses. The City of Las Vegas wastewater treatment plant removed chlorine from its discharges in 1992 after realizing it was toxic to fish.

This may have led to higher levels of bacteria in the lake. Poor water quality can also be caused by rising water levels, contamination from animals and people, and insufficient sunlight. In times of drought, the water quality standards for Lake Mead may not apply. This can impact the health of people and wildlife near the lake.

3. High temperatures

High temperatures can be dangerous at Lake Mead. The temperatures can swing 70 degrees up or down on the same day. Hypothermia is a real danger in the fall and winter, especially at night. Protecting yourself from the sun and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration is essential.

You should carry at least 1 gallon of water per person per day. Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by engaging in physical activity in hot weather. Be alert for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat strokes, such as dizziness, nausea, and a headache.

Hypothermia is a serious emergency in which your body can lose heat faster than it can replace it. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slow or slurred speech, memory lapses and incoherence, and exhaustion.

If you are stranded in the weather, stay in your car until help arrives. Carry extra drinking water with you in case of an emergency. Hantavirus is spread through contact with infected rodents or their urine and droppings, so use caution in rodent-infested locations such as cabins and mine structures.

Do not hike in the heat, as it can be dangerous, especially during the late spring to early fall months when temperatures are high. Always plan ahead before hiking, carry detailed maps, and let someone know your plans.

4. Dangerous wildlife

Dangerous wildlife can be found in Lake Mead, including rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other desert creatures. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid disturbing the wildlife. Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba that can cause a rare infection.

Amoeba only enters the body through the nose and can be fatal if infected. Oleander is a poisonous plant that can be found in developed areas and should not be eaten or drunk by humans or pets. Crocodiles are the most dangerous animals in Lake Mead.

5. Limited access

When visiting the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, there will be limited access to certain areas to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Visitors are advised to be prepared for long wait times at the park entrances and wear face-coverings when visiting high-visitation areas.

Following current health guidance to stay safe in the park is also important. This includes avoiding touching your face and staying away from high-visitation areas where there is a greater chance of exposure.

Overall, limited access to Lake Mead can be dangerous if you are unprepared and do not follow proper safety guidelines. Use the Best for You tool to find the right plan for you before visiting the park.

a sandy beach next to a body of water


How can you stay safe at Lake Mead?

Step 1: Check the weather conditions before you go

Before going to Lake Mead, it is essential to check the weather conditions and storm warning flags. Since it is a desert, the temperature can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

The lake is located in one of the driest places in America, and there are very few trees to provide shade. The lake is so large, and the air above it is so hot and dry that thunderstorms are prevalent. One of the most unusual things about Lake Mead is that it has a high number of lightning strikes.

The lake is also known for strong winds and dangerous waves, especially in the spring when the snow melts on nearby mountains and raises the water level. Boats must be adequately anchored, and people must be careful not to fall overboard.

Step 2: Bring the proper safety gear.

You must bring the proper safety gear to stay safe at Lake Mead. If you are going to be in the water for more than 20 minutes, then it is recommended that a life jacket be worn. The life jacket will help keep you afloat if the worst were to happen, and it will also provide a distress signal for rescue personnel.

Boaters must have required safety equipment such as a life jacket on board their boat. You should also wear a life jacket and be cautious when approaching the shore. It is also essential to know your abilities and be aware of the distances around the lake.

When swimming, fishing, or playing in the lake, you should maintain a distance from buoys and diver down flags. All personnel must wear life jackets and observe the boat operator. A ski flag should be displayed when skiing in the water.

Step 3: Follow the posted rules and regulations.

Following posted rules and regulations to stay safe while enjoying Lake Mead is extremely important. Fireworks are strictly prohibited to prevent wildfires, and drinking and operating a vehicle or vessel is illegal as it endangers yourself and others.

Always wear a life jacket when swimming, fishing, or tubing in open water, stay at least 300 feet away from diver down flags, buoys, and channels, ski with a banner displayed, and avoid hiking or camping in areas that are prone to flooding. Following these simple rules and regulations can help ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone involved.

Step 4: Be aware of your surroundings

When swimming, fishing, or playing near the lake, always stay aware of your surroundings and be mindful of distances. Maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from any diver down flags or buoys in open water areas and at least 100 feet in navigation channels. Do not rely on inflatables for safety – always wear a life jacket.

If water skiing or being towed behind a boat, always wear a life jacket and be aware of your surroundings. There are also specific areas of Lake Mead that are off-limits to the public for safety reasons – be sure to familiarize yourself with these areas before heading out.

Step 5: Use common sense

Use common sense when visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s a large, remote area with extreme temperatures and rugged terrain. The most popular activity is boating on the lake, which has claimed more than 100 lives since Lake Mead was filled in the 1930s.

Fueling boats, swimming, and diving off of docks are the most frequent causes of boating accidents. Alcohol is a factor in many deaths on Lake Mead. The lake has no natural outlets, so its water level fluctuates dramatically with the seasons, exposing rocky cliffs and submerged hazards not visible at other times.

a beach with a mountain in the background


FAQs

How many people have died at Lake Mead?

Lake Mead is one of the most popular recreation areas in the United States but also the most dangerous. Each year, around 100 people drown at Lake Mead.

There are many dangers at Lake Mead, so it’s important to know them all if you plan to visit. Most drownings at Lake Mead occur when people are swimming or boating. The lake is frequented by vehicles, which makes it challenging to stay safe.

If you do visit Lake Mead, be sure to stay on the Historic Railroad Trail. This trail provides a safe and easy way to explore the lake.

What are the causes of death at Lake Mead?

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, there are a variety of possible causes of death. The most common cause of death is drowning, followed by natural causes and motor vehicle crashes. Other possible causes of death include hiking, boating, and fishing.

Officials use Outside magazine surveys, visitor surveys, and public health assessments to identify trends and improve safety at Lake Mead. An increase in drownings spurred additional outreach to alert people before they enter the water, increased patrols, and new safety precautions. Lake Mead has life jacket loaner stations to reduce drownings.

What are the most common accidents at Lake Mead?

A fatality review board examines all accidental deaths at Lake Mead. Drowning (87% of deaths), natural causes (59% of deaths), and car accidents (39% of deaths) are the three leading causes of death. Drowning is the most common type of accident at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, accounting for 87% of all deaths.

Accidents at Lake Mead are rising, and officials are using different methods to try and prevent them. Safety measures include stepped-up patrols, new safety measures, and more outreach to inform visitors before swimming.

The park is also taking measures to prevent accidents by setting up life jacket loaner stations around the lake. Accidents at Lake Mead are common, so it’s essential to know the dangers before swimming or diving in the water.

What is the water level of Lake Mead?

The water level of Lake Mead has been declining for years and is now at an all-time low. This is due to a combination of factors, including prolonged drought and increased water usage.

If the water level falls below 895 feet, it will reach what’s known as a “dead pool.” This would have huge consequences for the millions of people who rely on Lake Mead for drinking water, irrigation, and hydroelectric power.

What is the future of Lake Mead?

The future of Lake Mead is uncertain, but we can take some steps to protect it. The lake is currently at its lowest point since 1938 and will soon reach a “dead pool” level. The Bureau of Reclamation has created a plan to deal with the dead pool scenario, but it’s still years away.

The Colorado River is in crisis and getting worse. The lake that was created when the Colorado River was dammed is now a shell of its former self. In the meantime, the National Park Service has put up signs to show people where the water stood in previous years.

The Colorado River spawned boating and recreational playground that is now gone due to the drought. The retreat of Lake Mead is causing problems for the Park Service and the remaining marinas, and there is little that can be done to prevent it.

Lake Mead is shrinking, and the Southwest is in a drought. If steps are not taken soon, there is a risk that the reservoir will be completely drained, and the surrounding area will be lost forever.

How can I visit Lake Mead?

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a great place to visit for fishing, boating, and enjoying the scenery. You will need to purchase a vessel pass and display an Aquatic Invasive Species decal to visit.

Check water levels before using launch ramps. Rental boats are available from marinas, but first-time boaters should get safety instructions from marina staff. There are no snack shacks on the water, but there are plenty of places to eat on land.

Fishing is allowed 24 hours a day at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Hoover Dam Lodge offers excellent accommodations just a few miles from Lake Mead National Recreation Area.