St. Thomas used to be a thriving pioneer town, until The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead submerged everything. Thanks to the drought, the town is coming to the surface once more.The western United States is in the grips of multi-year drought and Lake Mead, the enormous reservoir behind the Hoover Dam, is at its lowest level ever. The lake is down 141 feet from its maximum depth. With water so low, the lake is exposing ground that hasn't been dry since the dam was under construction in the 1930s. The abandoned town of St. Thomas is one location visitors can now explore.
What's that speck of white shimmering in the distance? Is it a mirage? It looks like the ruins of a building.
At one point this desert landscape was covered by up to 100 feet of water. Now, the ruins of St. Thomas are surrounded by dry scrub brush, a mile from the edge of Lake Mead.
At one point this building was an ice cream parlor. The town of St. Thomas was established in 1865 by Mormons dispatched to southern Nevada to plant cotton and expand the reach of their church toward the West Coast.
Once, St. Thomas had 500 residents, enough to support a school, the ruins of which are here.
Old glass shards are lined up along a building foundation. The original Mormon settlers only lived in St. Thomas for six years, leaving in 1871 after a land survey shifted the Nevada state line one degree east, placing the town in Nevada instead of Arizona or Utah. The state of Nevada attempted to collect back taxes, but the missionaries opted to leave instead of paying.
These tree stumps once marked the town boundary.
After the Mormons left, other opportunistic settlers claimed the properties and expanded the town. Some Mormon settlers returned in the 1880s. We know this cistern was built on May 26, 1911, the date of the inscription.
The Hoover Dam began creating Lake Mead in 1935, but it wasn't until June 1938, with waters lapping at his front door, that the final resident of St. Thomas left the town.
Fishermen first spotted the ruins of St. Thomas under their boats in 2003. The foundations were completely dried out and exposed four years later, after being submerged for 69 years. Today the town is protected by the National Park Service as a historic site.