A National Historic Landmark in its own right, the Hoover Dam has become one of the most well regarded tourist attractions in the United States. Standing at over 60 stories tall with a base as thick as two football fields are long, this brilliant feat of human engineering has fulfilled its goal of disseminating the erratic Colorado River, saving major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix from flooding while simultaneously creating the largest reservoir in the United States—Lake Mead.
Lake Mead is more than just a body of water leading up to the Hoover Dam. Extending some 110 miles upstream toward the Grand Canyon and backed by spectacular cliff and canyon scenery, Lake Mead offers the perfect setting for water sports and desert hiking. It’s also the source of freshwater for much of the Southwest. But what may be the most intriguing part about this National Recreation Area isn’t what you see above ground, but rather what lurks below.
Lake Mead’s Secret Underwater World
Recently, the lake’s water levels have dropped to a historic low, but it’s still one of the top freshwater dives in the world with depths of over 500 feet in certain places and 700 miles of shoreline to dive in from. In fact, the diminishing water levels have actually proven beneficial for divers, as some sites that were once too deep are now within the certification’s limits. This gives both advanced and recreational divers the opportunity to explore different areas of the lake, revealing a region full of hidden gems.
Shipwrecks busy with fish, train tracks decaying in the dark, cement tunnels motionless on the silt floor and even a mysterious, one-of-a-kind WWII-era bomber—an entire secret underwater world of awesomeness exists beneath the surface of Lake Mead’s seemingly composed teal-blue waters.
Must-See Dive Sites at Lake Mead
As you sink below the surface, get ready to discover an array of historic landmarks near the Hoover Dam, harmless yet invasive Quagga mussels, curious teams of fish, as well as what remains of the Depression-era construction project that built the Hoover Dam.
Hoover Dam Train Hopper: Used during the creation of the Hoover Dam to transport loads of rocks to be crushed and divvied up, this site offers a thrilling experience. Advanced divers are free to navigate the inside of the concrete tunnel that runs below the hopper, while recreational divers are recommended to explore it from the outside. Either way, it’s an awesome site to see.
Wishing Well Cove: Escape the mundane and swim through this maze of cliff walls and natural rock spires that rise from the bottom of Lake Mead. Just be careful not to lose your diving buddies in this underwater labyrinth.
PBY-5a Catalina Plane: Resting just a short boat ride east of Boulder Harbor, this plane is in fairly good condition for having been submerged since 1949 after it went down while attempting to accomplish a water landing.
Wreck Alley: Located right off Sentinel Island, you’ll find a series of well-known boat wrecks, the biggest of the bunch being a 37- to 38-foot wooden sailboat called the Southern Cross. You could spend hours navigating the different wrecks.
The “Superfortress” B-29 Bomber: The plane went down while testing a secret sun-powered missile guidance system in 1948. The crew escaped, but the mighty B-29 bomber didn’t share the same fate. For decades, it was unreachable due to the dangers associated with such depths (it rested at a depth of 300 feet), but with Lake Mead at record low levels, diving will permitted starting in April of 2015.