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What Hidden Mysteries are at the Bottom of Lake Mead?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what’s hanging out at the bottom of Lake Mead. Unfortunately, it’s more than fish and rocks.

What they’re discovering may surprise you and keep you on land. Who knew this beautiful area had such a dark side?

Today, we’re diving beneath the surface to see what lies below. 

Let’s dive in!

Hoover Dam Reservoir, Nevada. What will you find at the bottom of Lake Mead?
You can easily see the high water mark on the hills surrounding Lake Mead

About Lake Mead

At 532 feet deep and 247 square miles, Lake Mead is the largest manufactured reservoir in the country. It was formed in 1936 from the construction of the Hoover Dam. The dam restricts the flow of the Colorado River and can hold approximately two years’ worth of discharge.

It received its name from Elwood Mead, who played a pivotal role in developing aquatic resources for residents out west. Today, it’s a recreational destination and water source for nearly 20 million people. Folks from all over come to enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming.

Sadly, the last few decades have witnessed it severely receding. A mixture of drought and increased demand leaves “bathtub rings” around the shores. You can see how the levels have continually decreased over the years. 

While these issues have been happening for quite a while, it’s becoming a serious concern. Many worry about what residents of the southwest will do if and when it runs dry. The discovery of some horrific items is concerning.

How Many Bodies Have Been Found at the Bottom of Lake Mead?

In May 2022, a diver found what he believed to be a body at the bottom of Lake Mead. After reporting the find, officials searched the surrounding area and uncovered more human remains. Sadly, this was the sixth corpse found in 2022 alone. Since then, more have surfaced, revealing an unsavory side of the lake.

Rumors began to circulate about how they got there. Were they drowning victims? Or was there the possibility of the mob or other seedy criminals at work? Unfortunately, we’ll likely never know the truth. However, experts identified the body of Thomas Erndt, who drowned nearly two decades before his remains were recovered.

If we’ve learned anything from these findings, it’s that water safety is essential. We can’t encourage you enough to wear a floatation device and avoid drinking alcohol while recreating. 

Get the details: Lake Mead & Hoover Dam: The Story Behind the Scenery

Unusual Things Found at the Bottom of Lake Mead

Human bodies aren’t the only thing at the bottom of Lake Mead. Here are a few other things you might not expect to find.

World War II-Era Higgins Boat

The military sells off unused gear and equipment, including boats. This particular World War II-era Higgins boat went through several transactions before being sold to a local marina on Lake Mead. The owner intentionally sunk the vessel to help protect the area from waves and prevent erosion.

At one point, dive tours began frequenting the structure as a point of interest. In 2006, the National Park Service started sending teams down to dismantle the engine. Unfortunately, in June 2022, the waters receded enough that the boat was visible for all to see. You no longer needed scuba equipment or training to get a look at it.


On July 21, 1948, a B-29 Superfortress Bomber crashed into Lake Mead. A crew of five individuals was onboard the plane, and all survived. Somehow, the worst injury of anyone was only a broken arm.

However, the plane sank like a stone into Lake Mead. It wasn’t until August 2002 that a group of local divers discovered the wreckage. The boat was relatively well preserved, but the receding water levels are causing temperatures around the plane to increase. These warmer waters are more hospitable for certain organisms that may damage the remnants.

Do you really want to visit? 5 Reasons to Avoid Lake Mead.

Navy PBY Catalina Flying Boat

With its massive size, it should be no surprise that the B-29 isn’t the only plane at the bottom of Lake Mead. The National Park Service announced in 2007 that they’d located the wreckage from a 1949 crash involving a PBY Catalina flying boat.

The crash of the military aircraft occurred after a civilian purchased it. He and four others were taking it out for a test flight, and the crew attempted a water landing. Tragically, the landing gear was still down and hit the surface. This caused a violent scene and killed all but one individual.

While it sat at 190 feet below the surface in 2007, the depth had shrunk to 135 feet by 2022. This will likely only worsen, and the National Park Service will have to decide how they want to proceed. These sites are protected, and removing any object is highly illegal.

A photo of a C47 Dakota wreck. Similar wrecks can be found at the bottom of Lake Mead.
C47 Dakota wreck, 12.07.2014, Bodrum, Turkey.

Aggregate Plant

The Aggregate Classification Plant operated during the construction of the Hoover Dam. It was so successful that it helped to complete the project two years early. How do you thank an aggregate plant for doing its job? Apparently, by burying it 100 feet under the Colorado River.

After the completion of the Hoover Dam, officials removed most of the steel and equipment from the plant. However, everything left disappeared as the river filled the area in 1936. Today, experienced divers can see conveyor belts, tunnels, railroad tracks, and four massive aggregate piles still in place.

St. Thomas

If you thought an aggregate plant was surprising, wait until you hear about the entire town at the bottom of Lake Mead. At one point, the former Mormon settlement of St. Thomas was one of the busiest stops between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. While many thought it’d disappear forever after the 1930s, years of rising temperatures have changed that.

Visitors can now walk through the ghost town and explore what sat under Lake Mead for decades. Accessing the site can be challenging as the dirt road is bumpy. However, that didn’t stop a group of former residents from having reunions in 1945, 1963, and 2012. If you enjoy exploring abandoned relics, this is as good as it gets.

Know Before You Go: The Most Dangerous Creatures at Lake Mead.

Only the Brave Will Explore the Bottom of Lake Mead

While this reservoir may offer some of the most breathtaking views above, it’s entirely different below the surface. 

We can overlook the remains of former factories and towns but not the bodies. Knowing what’s at the bottom of Lake Mead will likely keep us out of its waters for quite some time. To play it safe, it might be a good idea for you to do the same.

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