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What Is Lake Mead?

Lake Mead was created by the water blocked by the Hoover Dam.
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  • Written By: Jay Leone
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2014
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Lake Mead is essentially the largest reservoir in America. This man-made lake was formed from the water dammed by the nearby Hoover Dam. Established as a national recreation area in 1964 by the National Park Service, Lake Mead offers many recreational activities for visitors, such as boating, swimming, and fishing. Lake Mead is surrounded by black lava rock and red sandstone at the junction of the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts.

At high water, this lake's elevation is 1,229 feet (374.6 meters) above sea level. It features a spillway gate system designed to prevent overfilling at 1,221.4 feet (372.3 meters) above sea level. This reservoir covers a surface area of approximately 247 square miles (397.5 square kilometers) at an elevation of 1,221.4 feet (372.3 kilometers). It extends around 110 miles (177 kilometers) upstream to the Grand Canyon region and its width is known to reach up to to eight miles (12.8 kilometers) at its maximum.

Lake Mead can hold a maximum total of approximately 28,537,000 acre-feet of water (35.2 cubic kilometers) at 1,221.4 feet (372.3 kilometers) above sea level. The acre-foot of water is a unit of measurement equivalent to around 326,000 gallons (1,234,044 liters) of water. This reservoir is large enough to contain the equivalent of two years worth of the Colorado River's annual flow at once.

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The National Park Service is the institution in charge of recreational activities around the Lake Mead area while the Bureau of Reclamation maintains and operates the dam, reservoir, and power plant linked with the lake. The Lake Mead reservoir got its name from Elwood Mead, who worked as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation at the time the Hoover Dam was being built.

Significant sedimentary deposits are accumulated yearly in this lake. It has accumulated approximately 91,000 acre-feet (0.1 cubic kilometer) of sediment between the years 1935 and 1963. A considerable supply of water from here is lost to evaporation on a yearly basis. Each year, around 800,000 acre-feet (0.9 cubic kilometer) of water from this reservoir evaporates.

The area currently occupied by this reservoir used to be relatively dry land. Damming the Colorado River resulted in the creation of this giant reservoir. Several early desert Indian cultures once thrived in and around the area currently known as Lake Mead. The Glen Canyon Dam, which is located around 370 miles (595.5 kilometers) upstream from Lake Mead helps contribute to the sustainability of the lake.

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