Among the Nevada Ruins: St Thomas Ghost Town
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
If you are looking for a modern day Atlantis-style adventure, then the southern Nevada desert is harboring an experience you won't want to miss.
Lou and I ventured out on a Saturday with nothing planned, when he pinpointed on the Google map a location sitting WITHIN the Lake Mead National Recreation Area called St Thomas (Lake Mead is a fee-based area but our yearly pass granted us access with no additional fee). After a quick search we discovered it was a ghost town, and it wasn't long before we hit the road. We've learned those two little words "ghost town" are great motivators to get us movin'.
Our initial misconception was that we could DRIVE down to ghost town but once we arrived, it was clear there was only one way down, walk it! We aren't normally hiking/trail people, but we are warming up to the idea, and this was a fantastic motivator to do more. The total trail hike from the parking lot and back is approximately 3-miles. It's a mostly gravel road. The initial part of the trail kicks off with an incline down the side of a hill from the parking lot area, so be sure to have sneakers or boots with good traction...especially if you are prone to slip/sliding like me.
As for the history St Thomas, it was once a thriving Mormon farming and business town. Originally settled by Mormon farmers from Utah who believed they were within the state of Utah (oops), a later survey revealed the land fell strictly within the boundaries of Nevada. Not wanting to pay taxes to Nevada, many of the farmers left. Later on, as the United States planned construction of the Boulder Dam about 40 miles away, the government bought out the remaining property owners still living in St. Thomas. The cemetery relocated to higher ground in nearby Overton (which is a favorite area of ours to visit as well, and we are on the hunt for permitted access to this historic cemetery). Upon the dam's completion, water began filling what today is known as Lake Mead, and St. Thomas was no more.
For 64 years the town would remain submerged beneath the waters of Lake Mead—at times as deep as 60 feet below the lake's surface. Nothing but memory. But over the years, drought conditions caused the reservoir's surface level to decline, and in 2002 the remains of St. Thomas came to light for the first time in decades.
St Thomas ghost town consists of a few foundations of buildings, stone structures, metal artifacts, and several cisterns. The National Park Service does a great job of keeping the grounds trimmed, allowing visitors to get up close to the ruins and walk in the steps of those that came before them.
One thing to note, there is no water or shade along the hike, so be prepared! The only amenities you'll find in the parking area are a (fairly) well maintained restroom, and a view that seems to goes on forever.
Here's a bit footage from our afternoon adventures at the St Thomas ghost town!