Thursday, February 23, 2012

Boulder Dam ~ St. Thomas, NV

For 60 years, the town of St. Thomas lay beneath the waters of Lake Mead. In 2002, St. Thomas re-emerged from the shrinking lake and scientists don't expect the site to ever be under water again.

St. Thomas School
Like most of the early settlements in the desert southwest, St. Thomas was established in an area of available water, in this case the comparatively lush Moapa Valley, 50 miles northeast of where Las Vegas is now. The town started as a Mormon outpost in 1865, and was later part of a chain of agricultural communities in the valley following the Muddy River, including Moapa, Logandale and Overton, that were otherwise surrounded by arid desert.

St. Thomas had a peak population of around 500 people, and for a while was known for producing cantaloupes and asparagus. A railway spur served the valley, and US 91, the main highway to Los Angeles before Interstate 15, went through town, making it a stop for motorists.
St. Thomas School

In 1938, however, as Lake Mead crept northward, filling in behind the Boulder Dam, St. Thomas, located at a lower elevation at the southern end of the valley, was flooded.

Due to regional drought conditions in 2011, portions of 40 buildings became visible at the exposed remains of St. Thomas, including the old school and the Hannig Ice Cream parlor. Also visible is the foundation of the Gentry Hotel, where former president Herbert Hoover stayed in 1932, while inspecting the nearby construction project he had helped to create. The Boulder Dam, which flooded the town, was later renamed in his honor.

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