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For decades, the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam has been a recreational haven for millions. Now, a drought has brought its waters to alarmingly low levels and uncovered buried secrets – including human remains

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An upturned boat lies exposed at Lake Mead, a popular U.S. tourism spot whose waters have receded dramatically this year.Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

More belowWhat did Lake Mead look like in its prime? A video guide


For the better part of a century, Lake Mead was among the best-loved unnatural wonders of the United States, a sprawling Colorado River reservoir behind the Hoover Dam that became the country’s first national recreation area, drawing boaters, swimmers and picnickers by the millions.

Now, with its shores laid bare by a lengthy drought, Lake Mead’s giddy pleasures are giving way to grisly discoveries, as a desert playground becomes a showcase for troubling new realities.

“I have to say, I always wonder when I walk through here – what am I going to step on? Because they just found somebody yesterday,” said Matt Loborec, who came to Boulder Beach on a recent afternoon to watch his 14-year-old son windsurf.

He pointed to a beach a few hundred metres away, where human remains had just been discovered, the third such find this year. One of the bodies was found in a barrel, an apparent murder victim revealed after the waters receded.

“It’s messed up,” Mr. Loborec said.

NEVADA

UTAH

Lake

Powell

Las Vegas

Lake

Mead

Hoover

Dam

CALIF.

ARIZONA

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Pacific

Ocean

San Diego

Major cities

dependent on

water from

Lake Mead

Tucson

U.S.

MEXICO

0

50

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news

NEVADA

UTAH

Lake

Powell

Las Vegas

Lake

Mead

Hoover

Dam

CALIF.

ARIZONA

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Pacific

Ocean

San Diego

Major cities

dependent on

water from

Lake Mead

Tucson

U.S.

MEXICO

0

50

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news

NEVADA

UTAH

Lake

Powell

Las Vegas

Lake

Mead

Hoover

Dam

CALIF.

ARIZONA

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Pacific

Ocean

San Diego

Major cities

dependent on

water from

Lake Mead

Tucson

U.S.

MEXICO

0

50

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news

Lake Mead, as seen from space on July 6, 2000, and July 3, 2022. Lauren Dauphin/NASA Earth Observatory via The New York Times