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Las Vegas
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Within the Lake Mead Destination is Las Vegas, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Valley of Fire State Park, and the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. The region has a general desert environment, but forests, a lake, and a river are also within the district. Lake Mead, the body of water that the Lake Mead Destination is named after, has various activities that take place on and around it, such as scuba diving, boating, hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and biking.[1] Lake Mead receives around 7.5 million visitors a year.[3] The city of Las Vegas, located west of Lake Mead, has around 42 million annual visitors.[4] Within the city are venues such as the Strip, the High Roller, the Discovery Children's Museum, and the Planetarium.[2] Aside from the general attractions within the Lake Mead Destination, there are a wide variety of plants and animals in the area. Lake Mead's environment is home to various mammals including the desert cottontails, bighorn sheep, coyotes, wapitis, and mule deer. Birds are also common in the district, especially great-tailed grackles, great egrets, redheads, double-crested cormorants, greater roadrunner, red-winged blackbirds, and ruddy ducks.[6] Weather at Lake Mead varies throughout the year, from extremely hot temperatures in the summer to the occasional drop below zero degrees in the winter. The fluctuating weather makes different times of the year an efficient time to visit depending on what activities are desired.[5]

What Las Vegas is known for

The Lake Mead Destination houses several cities, multiple national parks and preserves, and Lake Mead, which is the largest body of water within the region. Lake Mead is not a natural lake; instead, it is a reservoir created by the Hoover Dam. For a time, the area where Lake Mead is now located acted as a sanctuary for pioneers. In 1865, when pioneers were looking to expand into the west, they settled a town on the banks of the Colorado River that is within the region. It was abandoned in 1938, and all of the structures were submerged by the waters of Lake Mead. Another interesting fact about the lake is that it has environmental diversity. Because of its large size, there are different ecological features. The Boulder Basin, one of the features near Lake Mead, can be recognized because of its proximity to Las Vegas. Overton Arm, the northern portion of the lake, acts as a home to bald eagles in the winter seasons. The wildlife around Lake Mead is diverse.[8] 

Lake Mead is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which offers various activities for visitors to participate in, such as biking, camping, boating, fishing, and hunting. Hiking has become one of the most popular things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. A backcountry road has been developed to provide access to various areas within the park. Boating on Lake Mead is also one of the most popular events that take place in the area. Horseback riding is less frequent, but trails going through the backcountry make it possible. Lake Mead is highlighted as a freshwater lake, which makes scuba diving an option. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is known for being a place for photography as well.[1] 

Las Vegas is the largest city located within the Lake Mead Destination. It is known for casinos and resorts, but there are also aquariums, museums, restaurants, race tracks, and amusement parks to name a few. The Strip is a famous destination that is located within Las Vegas, with more than four miles of casinos, nightclubs, and theaters. The High Roller is the biggest Ferris wheel in the state of Nevada, but it is also the world's tallest and heaviest. At 550 feet tall, it can carry up to 1,120 people at once. At the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, visitors can go to the two venues which host various activities and shows. Other ventures within the city include the National Atomic Testing Museum, Fremont Street, the Springs Preserve, the Discovery Children's Museum, and the Planetarium.[2] 

Both Lake Mead and Las Vegas receive annual visitors, along with tourists from around the country and sometimes from around the world. In 2019, 7.5 million people visited the area, specifically the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.[3] Las Vegas is expected to receive an annual amount of 42 million visitors. [4]


Lake Mead, the largest body of water inside the Lake Mead Destination, is located on the eastern side of the region. Also on the east side is a small portion of Arizona, though most of the district is in Nevada. The area wraps around a few different cities in an abnormal shape. Cities bordering its perimeter are Mercury, Indian Springs, Crystal, Temple Bar Marina, Nelson, Jean, Goodsprings, Pahrump, and Amargosa Valley. The largest city within the destination is Las Vegas, followed by Paradise and Henderson. While cities are frequent in the location, there are also a few national sites within the vicinity, such as the Valley of Fire State Park, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Some of these national parks have red rock or mountains featured within them, while others have forests or lakes. In the Lake Mead Destination, a desert climate is common. Forests and bodies of water are scarce in the area. 

Seasons at Lake Mead each have specific temperatures and weather conditions. The months of June, July, August, and September, have the hottest temperatures in the area. High temperatures range from 92-107 degrees Fahrenheit. The lows of the region often range from 67-78 degrees Fahrenheit. At Lake Mead, the monsoon season affects the water during July and August. This can cause thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings. Thunderstorms are not common in autumn.  In the winter (December, January, and February), the temperatures drop to be cooler, with a high of 62 degrees and a low of 30 degrees. Winter also brings a colder temperature to the water of Lake Mead, which usually ranges from 48-58 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the fluctuations in temperature, it is suggested for people to visit in the fall season or May.[5] 

The Lake Mead Destination acts as a home for multiple species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and plants. Bighorn sheep, coyotes, desert cottontails, donkeys, black-tailed jackrabbits, wapitis, mule deer, and Botta's pocket gophers are a few of the mammals that live near Lake Mead. There are also a few different kinds of squirrels and bats that roam the area. Also within the vicinity of the lake are multiple wildflowers and cacti, specifically chias, desert chicories, beavertail prickly pears, California barrel cacti, and Johnson's bee-hive cacti. Various insects like western honey bees, seven-spotted lady beetles, sagebrush checkerspots, and painted ladies all rely on these plants for nutrition and life. Similarly, the birds in the area depend on the bugs for food. Unique birds to the territory include redheads, great egrets, double-crested cormorants, great-tailed grackles, greater roadrunner, ruddy ducks, and red-winged blackbirds.[6]


Before the existence of Lake Mead, which is the largest body of water within the Lake Mead Destination, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area was occupied by early Indian cultures, along with explorers, pioneers, and prospectors. There is evidence that people were living in the area even before that. Based on artifacts and other archaeological evidence that has been collected, it has been estimated that Native American cultures inhabited the district up to 10,000 years ago. It's predicted that more animals and plants were able to thrive in the area during that time. Native American tribes living during this time period commonly hunted game, practiced farming, and gathered local edible plants. A cave near present-day Lake Mead holds the remains of large mammals, including ground sloths, camels, and mountain sheep. Notches found on the bones indicate that the animals were prepared and eaten by humans.[7] 

Multiple prehistoric culture groups inhabited the area around the Colorado River, which now links with Lake Mead today. Hunter and gatherers lived in caves while other groups lived in pit houses and practiced early farming. Based on the evidence that has been found, they likely grew beans, corn, cotton, and squash. Technologies that they had included pottery made up of gray-brown and reddish-brown buff. To hunt, they used spears, along with bows and arrows that were made from local materials.[7] 

As time passed, explorers and settlers would discover the area and build colonies and mines. As the population grew, the need for water became apparent. The construction of Boulder Dam was initiated by the Reclamation Act of 1902. Later on, this dam would be named Hoover Dam in 1931. The dam created a reservoir by blocking off the flow of the Colorado River and turning it into Lake Mead. The lake, named after Elwood Mead, drew thousands of visitors who were interested in the contrast between desert and water. It was because of this that the Lake Mead Recreation Area was created as the first national recreation area in 1964.[7] 

Lake Mead receives its water from snow melting in Wyoming, Utah, Rocky Mountains, and Colorado, along with the Glen Canyon Dam. Water is released into Lake Mead from the Glen Canyon Dam annually, and in turn, water is released from Lake Mead, just in a smaller portion. Since 2000, the Colorado River, the river that Glen Canyon Dam gets some of its water from, has experienced the southwestern North American megadrought. Because of the drought, Lake Mead's water level decreased. June 2010 brought the news that the lake was at 39% of its capacity. On November 30, 2010, Lake Mead reached a new low at 1,081.94 feet. A second new low hit on June 26, 2015, at 1,074.71 feet. Over the next few years, Lake Mead's water level declined at a steady rate, though it would occasionally rise to a higher amount.[9]

In 2021 there was an estimate that foam-backed floating photovoltaics covered 10% of Lake Mead's surface. Because of these photovoltaics, there could be more electricity generated for various cities. Arizona, California, Nevada, and the U.S. Department of the Interior signed an agreement in December 2021. The agreement stated that they were going to spend $200 million for 2022 and 2023 to subsidize water users to improve efficiency. This also led to the "500+ Plan" that has the goal to retain 500,000 acre-feet in the reservoir. [9]

Las Vegas is the largest city within the Lake Mead Destination. Las Vegas was officially declared a city on May 15, 1905. When the Boulder Dam was built, Las Vegas' population grew to 25,000 people from its previous population of 5,000 people. Las Vegas' first casinos were built in 1931 after the state of Nevada saw success from gambling and that it would be profitable for local businesses. During the war years, Las Vegas became home to a flexible gunnery school in 1941, along with the first resort on the Las Vegas Strip which was called the El Rancho Vegas. As the years passed, the population of the city continued to increase exponentially. Today, the city is known for its casinos, hotels, and various attractions.[10]

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