Lake Mead, Arizona & Nevada, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Arizona - West Coast - West - Nevada - Las Vegas Territory -

Lake Mead is the USA’s largest man-made reservoir in amount of water it can hold. Although Lake Powell is marginally larger in acreage at full-pond, Lake Mead holds more water by volume and thus is considered the larger of the two. In the size of their surfaces, both are dwarfed by Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota, and Fort Peck Lake in Montana respectively. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the controlling authorities for major reservoirs are far more concerned with how much water they hold than with surface acreage which often changes from month-to-month. With acres of water such as these behemoths contain, a few hundred acres more or less hardly matters. Debates over relative size thus will likely continue for years to come!

With over 500 miles of shoreline and a temperate climate, Lake Mead is a utopia for the over 8 million visitors that seek out its recreational opportunities. It is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and boating is a major drawing card. Fishing, diving, water skiing, hiking and camping are just some on the recreational possibilities. Open year round, many sun-seekers come to escape northern winters and relax in the warmth. With Las Vegas and Hoover Dam nearby, Lake Mead is an ideal location to head out for a day’s sightseeing and play. Lake Mead, covering the state line, is in both Arizona and Nevada.

Under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Mead was formed by the construction of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) impounding the Colorado River. Construction was completed in 1936. Lake Mead’s primary purpose is as a reservoir for water supply, with over 22 million people in California and Nevada dependent upon it. Other major uses are hydropower generation and irrigation supply. Spectacular recreation of all types is a byproduct of the Dam. Lake Mead is located southeast of Las Vegas and can be accessed from US 93 and 95 on the south and US 15 on the north. Interstate 515 is the access from Las Vegas and Henderson. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates and maintains the dam, powerplant and reservoir, while the National Park Service administers Lake Mead.

Superb boating is a major enjoyment on the gorgeous waters of Lake Mead. Seven large fully stocked marinas dot the lake. Everything from 75 foot houseboats to canoes and kayaks may be rented at most. Watersports abound with the warm climate and boating can be enjoyed over 95% of Lake Mead – fluctuating lake levels creating shallow areas acoount for the remaining 5%. Launch ramps in both Arizona and Nevada locations are conveniently accessible. For those not having or wanting to rent a boat of their own, there are many cruises and sightseeing tours offered around Lake Mead.

Lake Mead is an excellent ‘fishing hole’. Striped bass, stocked trout, shad, largemouth bass, channel cats, bluegill and crappie are found in the most likely spots. Fishing is open year round except for posted areas.

Lake Mead holds a crashed B-29 Superfortress which was found by sports divers and further explored by the National Park Service (NPS) and NOAA. It is on the Lake bottom at 140 to 170 feet and crashed in 1948. An NPS diving permit is required to dive the site. Also, there are more than 25 geocaches situated nearby for new ‘finds’. Although some will test your rock climbing ability, many are relatively easy to find and log.

Valley of Fire State Park is located only six miles from Lake Mead and northeast of Las Vegas. Its name comes from the red sandstone formations and the stark, other worldly beauty of the Mojave Desert. Open all year, popular activities include hiking, camping, picnicking, photography, and a visit to the full-scale visitors center.

All in all, Lake Mead is a boater’s paradise with a wealth of recreational activities for any outdoors person.

Things to do at Lake Mead

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • State Park
  • National Park

Fish species found at Lake Mead

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Shad
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Lake Mead Photo Gallery

Lake Mead Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 157,900 acres

Shoreline Length: 550 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,125 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 915 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,229 feet

Average Depth: 225 feet

Maximum Depth: 589 feet

Water Volume: 28,537,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1936

Water Residence Time: 3.9 years

Drainage Area: 171,700 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligo-mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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