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A lone coyote scavenges for dead fish lying on dry, cracked earth, which just a few months ago was the site of a busy launch area for boats and pleasure craft setting out on Lake Mead.
Now, the water in the bowl of Boulder Harbor in Nevada, has vanished entirely, leaving behind newly exposed shoreline as revealed in these astonishing DailyMail.com photos.
In front of the concrete jetty, dead carp and catfish lay rotting in the punishing Nevada sun after being stranded when the reservoir’s waters receded to now-critical levels.
The marauding coyote in the harbor is the latest devastating symbol of the potential environmental catastrophe facing America’s largest man-made lake, 30 miles from Las Vegas.
Boulder Harbor, on the western side of Lake Mead, is approached by a long and wide sloping concrete roadway suitable for large boat trailers.
It is formed from a shallow bowl that opens into a channel that would normally give pleasure craft access to the wider waters of the massive lake.
Astonishing DailyMail.com photos lay bare the devastating effects of severe drought conditions at Lake Mead in Nevada. The newly exposed shoreline now reeks of decaying fish scattered across dry, cracked earth. Pictured: A lone coyote scavenges for food among the carcasses of dead fish in Boulder Harbor
As the lake water receded, many fish were trapped in the harbor’s basin and eventually killed when the water dried up
The whole area around the dried up Boulder Harbor now reeks of the decaying fish that lay in scattered groups, their mouths gaping open
Dead carp and catfish now lay rotting in the punishing Nevada sun on land that was until recently part of Lake Mead as severe drought conditions worsen
The striking images come as teams of divers work on shifting three of the lake’s major marinas – Lake Mead Marina, Callville Bay Marina, and Las Vegas Marina – now in danger of being marooned on dry land – further out into the water as levels rapidly deplete
But the level of Lake Mead – which supplies water to 40million people – has plunged so dramatically amid a 22-year mega-drought that the harbor has simply been left behind.
Around the perimeter, at least 10ft above the cracking dry earth bed, white marker buoys lie still tethered with rope.
Boats that sunk in the lake over the years are now resurfacing, as are bodies.
The lake’s catastrophic water level decline has led to the uncovering of two bodies – one of them a suspected Las Vegas Mob ‘hit’ victim who was stuffed inside a metal barrel after being shot.
He was found on May 1 in Hemenway Harbor. Police believe he was dumped there in the ‘70s or ‘80s when the spot would have been under at least 20ft of water.
Meanwhile skeletal remains were discovered by paddleboarders a week later near Callville Bay. The Clark County medical examiner is working to identify the person, while Las Vegas police say they have found no evidence to suggest foul play.
The whole area reeks of the decaying fish that lay in scattered groups, their mouths gaping open. Meanwhile the coyote chomps on their bones and scales while eyeing us with caution.
Boulder Harbor was last used properly last summer. Its water supply was shut off by the lip of the bowl on the channel side – and what was left has now evaporated, leaving dry earth with cracks six inches deep.
It is one of four launch areas on the lake that have now been closed due to the level emergency, leaving just one at Las Vegas marina in busy Hemenway Harbor near Lake Mead National Recreation Center’s visitor center.
Our incredible images come as we can also reveal that teams of divers are now working on moving three major marinas – Lake Mead Marina, Callville Bay Marina, and Las Vegas Marina – farther out into Lake Mead because they are in danger of being marooned on dry land as the waters continue to recede.
The marauding coyote in the harbor is the latest devastating symbol of the potential environmental catastrophe facing America’s largest man-made lake, 30 miles from Las Vegas
Pictured: A black jet ski, in good condition, sits stranded on the dried earth with a nylon rope leading to a spiked anchor that once held it in place in the water at the Callville Bay Marina
Las Vegas police announced last week that a body found in this barrel at Lake Mead is likely a man killed by gunshot in the ’70s or ’80s
Docks that were in use last summer now sit cordoned off at Callville Bay Marina on the lake where work is continuously underway to move the entire marine further and further out as water levels drop
Then: An aerial view of Lake Mead Marina, south of Las Vegas, in August 2020
Now: Boulder Harbor was last used properly last summer. Its water supply was shut off by the lip of the bowl on the channel side – and what was left has now evaporated leaving dry earth with cracks six inches deep
The water level of the reservoir is now just 1,052ft above sea level, compared to 1,085ft in January last year. Every foot drop represents roughly 30ft of shoreline lost.
Last month, the pipe connecting the first and shallowest intake began emerging and will no longer work if the level falls below 1,050ft.
Callville Bay Marina, on the northern shore of Lake Mead’s western arm and in the shadow of the Black Mountains, provides a chilling illustration of how the reduction is accelerating.
It has a series of markers showing levels for three specific years. The one for 2008 is firmly planted a fair way up a steep concrete ramp, now used as a parking lot for visitors. The next is 2018, which is about 450ft farther towards the shore on a dusty track.
This is followed by 2021, which is 142ft farther on.
But, in a prophetic insight into what may be to come, DailyMail.com measured the distance from the 2021 sign to what is now the shoreline and found the difference is about 820ft, an incredible acceleration.
Between the 2021 sign and the shore lies an abandoned speedboat covered in dried mud. Where water once swirled, dust now blows across the cracked landscape.
A black jet ski, in good condition, sits stranded on the dried earth with a nylon rope leading to a spiked anchor that once held it in place in the water.
Callville Bay Marina (pictured) on the northern shore of Lake Mead’s western arm and in the shadow of the Black Mountains, provides a chilling illustration of how the reduction is accelerating. It has a series of markers showing levels for three specific years
The one for 2008 is firmly planted a fair way up a steep concrete ramp, now used as a parking lot for visitors. The next is 2018 (pictured) which is about 450ft farther towards the shore on a dusty track
Pictured: A sign showing the water line just last year in 2021. The shoreline is now 142ft farther on
Divers are now working in shifts to prepare to move Callville Bay Marina a total of 1,000ft from where it was sitting a few months ago
All around are concrete blocks sunk in the earth that used to anchor parts of the marina when it was farther up the slope.
It is a saddening scene.
Pipes bringing services run alongside a temporary-looking walkway used by the visitors to the marina, which can house 600 boats including large pleasure cruisers taking dozens of passengers.
Divers are now working in shifts to prepare to move the marina a total of 1,000ft from where it was sitting a few months ago.
It has already been moved 500ft because of the shifting shoreline and it will shortly nudge around another 80ft out in a well-drilled operation.
‘We are talking about moved 170 concrete anchors that weigh 12,000lbs each,’ general manager Kim Roundtree told DailyMail.com.
‘Marina moves are 60 to 80ft each time. And we can’t move the whole marina at one time because it is too big.
‘We have three sections in all, marinas 1, 2 and 3.
‘So we move marina 1 and marina 3, 60 to 80ft out. We put a dock extension in to cover the gap of the 60 to 80ft and then we have to go and get the other anchors, move those out.
‘And then we take the extension out, and then we have marina two catch up to marina 1 and 3.’
A previously sunken boat at Callville Bay Marina on Lake Mead is now marooned on dry land after the reservoir’s shoreline receded drastically
Another boat resurfaces in Boulder Harbor, which is completed dried up after water levels dropped this year, resurfaced on the dry, muddy landscape
The water level of the reservoir is now just 1,052ft above sea level, compared to 1,085ft in January last year, with every foot drop representing roughly 30ft of shoreline lost. Pictured: Callville Bay Marina
Pictured: Fishing tackle in Boulder Harbor that is now completely dried up
A floating fishing dock now sits stranded on dry land as the water level of Lake Mead drops alarmingly
‘And then we have to start the process all over again. We started this eight months ago and we have so far moved a minimum of 500ft. And we will go another 500ft.’
The concrete anchors are uncoupled from cables attaching them to the various docks by the divers. The weights are then moved by water barge.
The divers rearrange the cables and other underwater attachments in a lengthy and meticulous process – and the actual move of the marina section then takes roughly two hours.
Roundtree continued: ‘We have this situation critically because of the receding water. It is worse now than ever, the reason for moving this marina is more and more urgent.’
She emphasized that Lake Mead’s waters levels tend to vary as they rise and as fall. But, Roundtree added: ‘If we didn’t have the situation with the water levels, we wouldn’t have to be doing this move.
‘Lake Mead lowers and rises, lowers and rises. Now maybe it is lowering more than in the past few years. But it does lower and rise.’
A major part of suffering of Lake Mead – formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River – is because Lake Powell in Utah, which also helps feed it, is also under astonishing pressure.
It is just 24 per cent full and it relies on snowmelt from the western side of the Rockies, which hasn’t occurred in serious amounts for 11 years because there has been so little snow.
A floating crane prepares to move underwater anchor blocks at the Lake Mead Marina, which operators are moving out by 100 feet for the third time this year, in order to keep it operational as waters recede fast
Moored boats and pleasure craft at the Lake Mead Marina
Boulder Harbor is one of four launch areas on the lake that have now been closed due to the level emergency, leaving just one at Las Vegas marina in busy Hemenway Harbor near Lake Mead National Recreation Center’s visitor center. Pictured: Closed docks at Callville Bay Marina
People enter and exit the Lake Mead Marina in Lake Mead, near Boulder, Nevada. Water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop as the region faces severe drought
Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the west, schedules water releases from Powell to Mead. It therefore analyzes and provides constant information about projected levels for the Nevada reservoir for affected businesses, users and federal departments.
‘In 2011 the lake rose 50ft,’ said Roundtree. ‘That was due to snow on the western side of the Rockies that supplied Lake Powell.
‘It’s the snow run off that we need. We need heavy, heavy snow run-off on the western side of the Rockies. That hasn’t happened for around ten years.’
In a Facebook post in January, Callville Bay Marina said: ‘Due to Bureau of Reclamation’s rescheduling of water releases, Lake Mead will be losing water at a much faster pace. As of March, we will not have a launch ramp at Callville Bay.’
At Lake Mead Marina in Hemenway Bay, director of operations Bruce Nelson is pitching in with his teams of workers to move all the docks out 120ft this week. The next door Las Vegas Marina is also being moved 80ft at a time.
‘We are doing it because we are losing water,’ Nelson told DailyMail.com.
‘For every foot of elevation change you could lose 20ft to 40ft of beach. It depends on the slope of that beach, but on average we lose about 30ft of beach.’
He started the operation in February and has already shifted the Lake Mead Marina’s docks 240ft.
‘There are anchors that go out and are attached to the marina’s eight fingers, or jetties,’ Nelson explained.
‘Then there are beach anchors. So we have to pick those up as well. This marina moves 120ft at a time, that’s the most it can move.
Then and now: A side-by-side comparison show the stark difference in water levels between 2005 and present day
Pictured above is the Hoover Dam and clearly visible bath rings’ showing how far the water levels have dropped
‘So we pick up all these anchors and move them 120ft into deeper water. Then on the day of the move we crank the entire marina out on winches.
‘The entire dock moves as one piece. Imagine how a kite is made, it has line that makes it strong. Our marina is the same, there are cables underwater that connect the dock, so it is all tied together.’
He said Bureau of Reclamation ‘are really good at telling you what the lake level will be in a 45-day period’.
But he added: ‘A little further out they don’t know as much, two years out and they start to build models – like this is best case scenario, this is most likely case scenario, this is worst case scenario.
‘And unfortunately right now we are in worst case scenario.
‘Lake Powell’s not doing great either. They have a record low and they are holding water back to maintain hydro-electric power creation.’
Nelson believes a total rethink is needed to tackle the critical water levels – particularly regarding the usage in southern California.
‘The south western states rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and for agriculture, which is the prime reason they dammed up the river,’ he said.
‘So they are going to have to figure out how to not farm Southern California the way they are farming Southern California at the moment. Because they are the main water users.’
An aerial view shows a dried boat launch ramp at Lake Mead’s Callville Bay Resort & Marina in Overton, Nevada on September 15, 2021. At the time, the water level was at 35% capacity – its lowest level since it was filled 85 years ago
He added that nearby Las Vegas ‘is not the problem’.
‘Vegas uses the same or less water for 2.2million people that most places do with a million people,’ he said. ‘Las Vegas recycles water and returns water to the lake and actually gets credit for that water. So it uses water, reclaims it, cleans it and puts it back in.
‘Vegas understands that we are in a desert.
‘The problem is that there is more people using water than there is water available. And it has to be figured out. That’s the job of the government.’
Of an immediate solution, he said hopefully: ‘We need snow pack on the western side of the Rockies for more than one year.
‘Because the lake is the lowest it has ever been and projections right now don’t show it going back up.’