AP PHOTOS: Extremely low levels at Lake Mead amid drought

BOULDER CITY, Nevada – An old, abandoned motorboat stands on the cracked mud like a giant tombstone. His epitaph might read: Here lie the waters of Lake Mead.

America’s largest reservoir has shrunk to a record low amid a punishing drought and the demands of 40 million people in seven states who are sucking the Colorado River dry. The mega-drought in the western United States has been made worse by climate change. The wildfire season has gotten longer and the blazes more intense, scorching temperatures have broken records and lakes are shrinking.

Receding waters at Lake Mead National Recreation Area revealed the skeletal remains of two people as well as countless desiccated fish and what has become a graveyard of forgotten and beached watercraft.

Houseboats, sailboats and motorboats were beached, creating a surreal scene in an otherwise rugged desert landscape. A buoy that once marked a no-boat zone sits in the dirt, not a drop of water in sight. Even a WWII-era sunken craft that once roamed the lake has emerged from the receding waters.

Nature did not create this calm water paradise for fishing, camping and kayaking. The mighty Colorado River that separates Nevada from Arizona once flowed beneath the walls of the Black Canyon until the Hoover Dam was erected in 1935 for irrigation, flood control and hydroelectricity.

The tank is now below 30% of its capacity. Its level has dropped 170 feet (52 meters) since hitting the high water mark in 1983, leaving a gleaming white line of mineral deposits on the brown canyon walls that towers over motorboats as high as a 15 storey building.

Most boat ramps have been closed and marina docks moved to deeper waters. A sign that marks the water level in 2002 stands inconceivably above a road that descends to boat ramps in the distance.

Falling water levels have consequences not only for cities that depend on the future water source, but also for boaters who must navigate shallow waters and avoid islands and lurking sandbars. below the surface before emerging.

Craig Miller was cruising on his houseboat last month when the engine failed and he floated to shore. Within days, the knee-deep water where his boat came to rest was gone.

“It’s amazing how fast the water flowed,” Miller said. “I was landlocked.”

He bought pumps and tried to dredge the sand around the boat to create a channel to the water, but could not stay ahead of the receding waters. A shallow water tow, originally valued at $4,000, swelled to a $20,000 salvage job when it found itself abandoned.

Miller spent three weeks on the beached boat, spending much of it soaking in water to stay cool in the triple-digit heat. The day before park rangers told him he had to get the boat out of the sand, Dave Sparks, a social media personality known as Heavy D, who had seen a video about Miller’s whereabouts, said presented with a crew to pull the boat. from shore and tow it to a marina.

Others flocked to the dry lake bed for selfies against the haunting landscape or against the backdrop of what looks like a colossal ring around a bathtub.

The bottom of the dry lake looks like broken glass, the cracks expanding in the scorching sun and the mud changing from brown to beige.

A small shoal of dead fish was wedged onto their tails and arranged in a circle.

As the sun sets in the west over Las Vegas, light illuminates the translucent hollowed-out body and empty eye socket of a fish. His mouth is open as if trying to breathe.

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The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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