Lake Mead Travel Information

Cultural History

Human history here extends back more than 10,000 years ago to man's arrival in the Southwest. The first people that can be positively identified in this region were known as the Basketmakers. They were probably forerunners of the Pueblo Indians who were farmers and traders.

Tule Springs, a few miles north of Las Vegas provides the earliest evidence of man in the Lake Mead area. Here archeologists found fire hearths and stone tools in association with Mammoth bones and other Pleistocene fauna. The evidence indicates that these early people were part of a widespread hunting culture that was dependent upon Mammoth, Bison, and other big game. They were probably nomadic and moved in small bands or family groups.

Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the hearths at Tule Springs, excavated by the Southwest Museum, yielded dates of over 23,800 years ago. Because of the possible contamination of the charcoal before the radiocarbon test, many archeologists feel that these dates are too early. Later excavations under better controls yielded the following sequence of dates for Tule Springs:

40,000+ years ago - Pleistocene fauna found in an old stream channel. Presence of Man not established.

30,000-15,000 years ago - a shallow lake existed near Tule Springs.

13,000-11,000 years ago - probable evidence of Man with extinct Pleistocene fauna.

11,000 years ago - definite evidence of Man.

So, at present, we can say that Man might have been in the Lake Mead area more than 20,000 years ago, probably here about 13,000 years ago, and definitely here by 11,000 years ago.

The recorded history of the area began in 1826, when Jedediah Smith passed through on his first Southwest Expedition in search of beaver. Other early explorers were John C. Fremont, Lt. Edward Beale, Lt. Joseph C. Ives, and Major John Wesley Powell.

The explorers were followed by colonization and exploitation. Mormon farm settlements and roaring mining camps sprang up along the rivers and in the mountains. Lake Mead was named in honor of Dr. Elwood Mead. As Commissioner of Reclamation from 1924 - 1936, he drafted new specifications for a giant project that would dam the Colorado River, impound the world's (at that time) largest artificial lake and provide flood control, irrigation supply and power generation. That project was Boulder Dam. We know it by a later name change as Hoover Dam.

In 1935, Hoover Dam was completed and Lake Mead formed, covering such historic Mormon sites as Callville, Rioville, and St. Thomas.

Echo Bay History

Salt mines now under Lake Mead waters in the Echo Bay area, as well as near former St. Thomas, were once mined by Indians. The miners, using stone tools, would chip a circular groove into the salt, forming a knob which they would break off and carry away for their use and for trading.

In 1864, Anson Call journeyed down the Virgin River to the Echo Bay area. He followed Echo Wash for a few miles, then turned back to the Colorado, where he picked the site of Callville for the Mormon Steamboat port.

In recent years, Moapa Valley ranchers have grazed their cattle in the Echo Wash, near the Bitter Springs, and in Bitter Springs Valley.

Echo Bay is near the old confluence of the Virgin and Colorado Rivers, where Powell ended his 1869 journey. Armijo, Smith, Odgen, and others followed the Virgin River to the Colorado River, passing close to Echo Bay.

Temple Bar History

Daniel Bonelli left St. Thomas after it was abandoned in 1871. He built his home at Junction City, at the mouth of the Virgin River, and renamed it Rioville. Bonelli raised cattle and agricultural crops, and mined salt for sale to the miners from Temple Bar to El Dorado. Bonelli recognized another need, so Rioville also became known as Bonelli's Ferry. The ferry operated until 1920. Rioville had a store, post office, and a Pony Express station. Daniel Bonelli is credited with naming "The Mormon Temple" at Temple Bar.

The Temple Bar Mining Company produced placer gold from 1894 to 1898. After having problems securing driftwood from the river, they shipped the needed timbers from Kingman. The miners picked up their mail at Rioville.

Many Indian artifacts are found in the Temple Bar area, such as a large pottery bowl discovered in 1974.

Katherine History

Bullhead City was named for Bull's Head Rock, an old landmark located along the Colorado River. In the years of steamboat travel up the river, it was used as a navigation point. As the waters rose behind Davis Dam, creating Lake Mohave, Bull's Head Rock was gradually covered, with only a small, undistinguishable part of it remaining uncovered.

Spanish explorer, Melchlor Diaz, discovered this area in 1540, years before Mayflower landed on the East Coast. And, in 1776, Father Garces crossed the Colorado River here, nearly a month before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

From 1852 to 1909, steamboats made regular trips up the Colorado River from Port Isabel in the Gulf of California. These sternwheeler river boats played an important part in the early development of the areas bordering the Colorado River.

In October, 1857, a caravan of 28 camels crossed the Colorado River below the present Bullhead City. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale was testing camels for desert travel for the War Department. With him was Hi-Jolly, a trained camel handler from Asis Minor.

The site for Davis Dam was selected in 1902, but construction did not start until 1942. It was discontinued in December of that year due to the war. Construction resumed in April, 1946, and the dam was completed in 1953.

The Katherine Gold Mine was discovered in 1900 and operated intermittently until 1930. The mine and, subsequently, the surrounding area, was named for the sister of one of the discoverers.

On the Nevada side of the lake are the Newberry Mountains, with a graded road crossing them at Christmas Tree Pass, named for the juniper and pinon pine at the higher elevations. A number of trees along the road have been "decorated" as Christmas trees with old tin cans and lids (according to legend, by old miners).

At the base of Christmas Tree Pass is Grapevine Canyon, an old Indian camping area with extensive petroglyphs, a short walk from the road.

All rates and amenities subject to change.


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