Lighter rock shows the pervious water level of Lake Mead near the intake towers of Hoover Dam
Craig A Walker via Getty Images

Lake Mead's Continual Shrinking Waters Reveal Third Set of Human Remains


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Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 11, 2022. It was updated by Lauren Pineda after a third set of remains washed up on Swim Beach in Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

As if the Lake Mead drought wasn't already disheartening enough, the National Park Service just confirmed that the unceasingly receding water levels of the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S. have chillingly revealed yet another set of human remains. This is the third set of human remains that has been discovered in the lake within the last three months. Although the first set of human remains most likely belongs to a murder victim who died by gunshot wound "sometime in the mid '70s to early '80s" according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, cause of death for both the second and third sets still remains unclear.

The first body was shockingly found in a barrel on May 1, 2022, and the second was found washed up on Callville Bay barely less than a week later on May 7. This most recent body was found washed up on Swim Beach on July 25. Although there's an ongoing homicide investigation being conducted for the first discovery by CSI and the Las Vegas Metro Homicide Units, it's unclear if a homicide team will be investigating the second and third. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer had told CNN back in May that he anticipated finding more bodies, and he was right. "The lake has drained dramatically over the last 15 years," he said. "It's likely that we will find additional bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead" as the water level drops more."

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At its maximum water capacity, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the nation. But the lake's water level sits at just 1,040 feet, already dropping 15 feet from when the first set of human remains was initially discovered and sitting now 174 feet below what officials consider full. The last time the lake's water level was this low was when it was first filled back in the 1930s. Back in April, the water had gotten low enough to reveal one of the first intake valves that had been placed back in the 1970s. And although a deeper valve near the bottom of the lake that was built in case of worsening drought has begun operating, this climate change-induced problem is not being taken lightly.

Original Story Below

Drought can be one of the most devastating acts of nature, and residents of Arizona and Nevada are seeing it firsthand in the Lake Mead area this year. In case you haven't been following the headlines, after nearly two years of drought, water levels are plummeting in the manmade reservoir at a record rate. It's getting so bad that experts are warning the 247-square mile lake's closure may be inevitable. As a result of the receding waters, lots of sunken boats and even a few bodies that were hidden in the depths are now being exposed to the light of day for the first time in years.

Hearing about the drought is one thing. Seeing the severity is another. YouTuber Sin City Outdoors and his son took a boat out to the lake to have a look at how far the water has dropped firsthand. Thanks to historic markers, he's able to show exactly where the water levels were up to 20 years ago and where they are today. As they tour around the lake, they show distinctive sunken barrels and sunken boats, and then compare the footage to two weeks prior. It's a shocking and saddening look at how devastating drought can be on one of America's most famous waterways.

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For those not up on their Lake Mead history, the reservoir was formed by the Hoover Dam's construction in the 1930s. In the decades since, the lake has proven to be a major tourist attraction. It also provides freshwater for both homes and irrigation purposes in multiple states. The lake helps generate electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes as well. As the water level drops, the livelihoods of thousands of people are on the line.

Then there's the grisly aspect of this story. Back in May, authorities were called out to investigate after someone reported a body in a barrel stuck in mud that was uncovered by receding waters. When the National Park Service investigated, they found human remains. A closer inspection by authorities led them to conclude the body had been dumped in the lake back in the 1980s. That is why these guys were closely looking at barrels on the lake. Investigators are now pouring over old cold cases and missing person's reports to try and identify the victim.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the lake has fallen from a high-water mark of 1,225 feet above sea level in 1983 to only 1,055 feet above sea level today, and the lake keeps dropping. It's sad to see such a historic lake get to this point. Lake Mead was home to the very first Bassmaster Classic Tournament back in 1971. At this point, the only thing left for residents to do is hope for a reprieve and some rain, otherwise one of America's most famous lakes could be lost forever.

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