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Receding waters: Why a once-thriving resort on Lake Mead has all but disappeared

On the north leg of the lake sits a stark example of what happens when water access disappears completely.

CLARK COUNTY, Nev. — The water at Hoover Dam should be near the top -- but decades of drought has dropped the water level at Lake Mead 158 feet.

The repercussions of a draining water supply are immense -- farms are drying up, a once-thriving marina now sits more than a mile from lake water and Arizona's Department of Water Resources is planning water cuts that could impact municipal water supplies as early as 2024.

12 News set out to understand the dire conditions our states face as drought and wildfire continue to rage across the West.

The story below is part of 12 News' Scorched Earth series. Read the full story here. 

>> Watched Scorched Earth on 12 News at 6 p.m. all week.  More at 12news.com/ScorchedEarth

Credit: KPNX
Echo Bay resort

On the north leg of the lake sits a stark example of what happens when water access disappears completely.

Echo Bay used to be an incredibly popular place. There was a marina in the water, a large RV park and a resort sitting just up the boat ramp. It was so popular, it had its own airstrip.

As the story goes, a businessman launching his own website wanted to name it after Echo Bay. But echobay.com was taken, so he shortened it…and eBay was born.

The online auction site is, of course, still around. Echo Bay, however, has all but disappeared.

The water is now a mile or more from the end of the boat ramp. Because of that, the National Park Service couldn’t find anyone willing to run the marina, and it was dismantled in 2013.

The RV park is still in use, although with only a handful of campers. The resort is boarded up and decrepit. Guests haven’t been there in years.

“I have memories of it being very high, down towards where it is now,” Lake Mead park ranger Chelsea Kennedy said.

Ever since she’s worked at lake Mead, there’s been a drought. 22 years worth of drought and counting.

“There's nothing that's going to happen quickly with this situation,” Kennedy said. “it would be Mother Nature over time fixing itself.”

>> This story is part of 12 News' Scorched Earth series. Read the full story here.

At the far end of the Lake sits the ruins of St. Thomas, a town that was bought by the federal government when Hoover Dam was built. The feds knew the water would reach far beyond where the town stood, flooding it.

St. Thomas was an old Mormon settlement that grew into a fairly good size town of 500 people. The town had a school, a grocery store, even a good-sized hotel.

When the water came, the residents were forced to pack up and leave. The town was under 60 feet of water when the lake filled.

But only a few years later, in 1947, St Thomas reappeared above the surface.

It’s stayed dry far more often than it’s been underwater ever since. The only thing left are foundations and few ruins sticking up from the grass.

“We spent the past 20 years evolving and learning how to constantly keep up with the evolution of the lake lowering,” Kennedy said.

Which leaves Nelson and his family’s marinas. It costs money to move the marinas. And while the lake is in no danger of drying up, his livelihood depends on the water being there for years to come.


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