LAS VEGAS — A body inside a barrel was found over the weekend on the newly exposed bottom of Nevada’s Lake Mead as drought depletes of the largest U.S. reservoirs.
Boaters spotted the barrel Sunday. The drought-starved reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam is so depleted that Las Vegas is now pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead.
Las Vegas police say there is a good chance more human remains will turn up as the lake's water level drops more.
He says personal items found inside the barrel with skeletal remains indicate the person died in the 1980s.
"It’s quite scary, really, how low they are," said Michelle Oakley, who visited Lake Mead on Monday. "I don’t know whether us discovering something would be scary for us, but it’s quite amazing what can be discovered, like how long it’s been here and why."
There have been discoveries for years, like the lost town of St. Thomas resurfacing. The town was covered in water after Hoover Dam was built, but you can now walk to where the tallest structure previously stood 60 feet underwater.
"Over the 90-year history of this lake, there have been a number of plane crashes that have taken place. This area was inhabited for thousands of years by Native American people who called this home," said Dave Alberg, the chief of resource management and compliance for Lake Mead National Recreation Area. "We expect fully as lake levels drop, there will be artifacts that are hundreds or thousands of years old."
Chip Kesterke, a retired casino dealer for 35 years, recalls coming to the lake in the '80s, in the early morning hours.
"We used to get off work at 4 a.m. in the morning and we would go home, get somebody’s boat, bring it out here to the lake and we’d be out here by 5 or 5:30. The water was really calm. Now, we just went up to Callville Bay and the marina is closed. You can’t launch your boat from there anymore," Kesterke said.
Some visitors describe that eerie feeling of the unknown.
"It’s weird. You don’t know what is there and, as water levels are dropping, weird things are being discovered," Oakley said.
Officials with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area urge people to, if they find something, leave it alone and take pictures. Disturbing it can cost historical value and damage to the ecosystem.
This story was first reported by Bree Guy at KTNV in Las Vegas.