LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA (KLAS) — With the recent discovery of a barrel with human remains found on the newly exposed shoreline at Lake Mead, many wonder what is being kept secret in the dark and green depths.
Once you know where to look, it’s a time-traveling trip into the recent old West. As it turns out, there are already many treasures scuba divers and desert explorers have discovered and known about for decades. Some of the items below the Lake Mead surface are well known, while others remain in the dark for only a few to see in person.
One of the best-known historical item resting at the bottom of Lake Mead is a crashed B-29 Superfortress plane that has been there since 1948.
Much of the information in this story comes from the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and patrols the area’s land and water. It keeps millions of visitors safe throughout the year.
Lake Mead B-29
For decades it was hundreds of feet underwater, lost to time in the dark depths of the lake. But with the lake level dropping, there is light now shining on the plane for the first time since it crashed. However, it remains irretrievable and can only be seen in person using scuba equipment.
The B-29 Superfortress was on a test flight near Lake Mead when something went wrong, causing the airmen to crash into the lake. The five-membered crew survived, but the plane sank.
The plane’s location was discovered in 2003, 55 years after it crashed..
Cement Aggregate Plant
In the 1980s, much of the aggregate classification plant was 115 feet below the surface, but not anymore. Anyone can now easily see a clarifying tank on the island directly in front of Hemenway Harbor.
The cement aggregate plant supplied all of the sand and gravel used to construct Hoover Dam in the early 1930s. Today, much of it remains underwater and is a boat-friendly freshwater dive site in Boulder Basin.
Visible to divers are four piles of crushed aggregate with concrete tunnels, the remains of conveyor belts, rail tracks, stairwells, foundations for steel towers, and more. It’s now within the recreational dive depth, making it a diver’s dream.
In 2005, 8 News Now – KLAS went along with the National Park Service as it was surveying the hidden site.
St. Thomas is one of the few historical sites that anyone willing to do a short hike can visit. This former Mormon frontier town is on what used to be the underwater area of the Overton Arm of Lake Mead. However, with water levels dropping for years, it has re-emerged.
The settlement located along the Muddy and Virgin Rivers became a popular stopping point for travelers heading west. But it could not compete against the changing tides of big government and the building of the Hoover Dam.
As Lake Mead slowly filled in the 1930s and 40s, the town would eventually be 60 feet below water.
Navy PBY Catalina Flying Boat
According to the NPS, an underwater wreck that was once a Navy PBY Catalina flying boat also lives under the waters of Lake Mead. On October 24th, 1949, the pilot attempted a water landing in the Boulder Basin area of Lake Mead when the landing gear hit the water – causing the plane to flip over and burst into flames, slowly sinking to the bottom of the lake. Only one of the five passengers on board escaped the crash with cuts, bruises, and a broken leg.
This historic site is about 120 feet below the surface with the current lake level.
The Mormon settlement, known as Callville, was about 15 miles from where Hoover Dam is today. Callville became a landing port for Colorado River steamboats during the Civil War until it was deemed too far up the river for them to travel.
Today, this site is possibly lost to time and nature as it remains around 340 feet below the surface of Lake Mead and is believed to be buried under 80 feet of sediment..
The area of the original Callville is now called Callville Bay and is a hot spot for camping and exploring.