Lake Mead, shrinking by the day, attracts Memorial Day crowd

People visit Lake Mead in Las Vegas, Monday, May 30, 2022. (Erik Verduzco / Las Vegas Review-Jo ...

One of the desired geographic elements missing in Southern Nevada that is frequently mentioned is a beach.

Looks like Mother Nature might be providing one — albeit rocky and muddy in places — as the water level steadily falls at the largest reservoir in the nation.

Thousands of boaters and outdoors enthusiasts flocked to the lake on Memorial Day to find a growing area of mud and often heavy boulders along the ever-changing shoreline.

Some swimmers could be seen in the water near once-submerged boats that are now visible and pretty much dry docked in mud or dirt.

The weather cooperated with winds generally below 10 mph after gusting to 35 mph in recent days, according to National Weather Service meteorologist John Adair.

Those launching boats had to deal with lines and very limited access to the lake, which has been reduced to one regular boat launch because of the decreasing water. The popular Echo Bay boat launch was closed earlier this month.

Boaters also have to be keenly aware of obstacles in the water that might not have been apparent when water levels were even a few feet deeper. And those driving near the lake have to be careful to avoid the mud.

Lake Mead has a capacity of nearly 29 million acre feet of water, a volume that has not been reached since the early 1980s when the water spilled over the top of Hoover Dam.

The Lake Mead water level on Monday was 1,048.12 feet (measured in sea level), down about 16 inches from a week ago and nearly 7 feet from a month ago. It is projected to drop another 30 feet in the next two years, according to a projection by the Bureau of Reclamation.

On May 30, 2021, it was at 1,073.75 feet, about 25 feet deeper than a year ago.

No measurements are available on the “tradeoff” when lower water levels convert into more square feet or acres of beach — or rocks or mud — for lakeside recreation.

Contact Marvin Clemons at Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter.