Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
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In June of 1938, Hugh Lord, the last remaining resident of the town of St. Thomas, woke up, set fire to his home, and rowed his small boat away from from the town. The town of St. Thomas, once a thriving Mormon farming and business town and the location of a bridge across the Muddy River, had seen all of its land bought by the U.S. Government, an action that would soon allow the inundation of the town beneath the waters of the newly created Lake Mead following construction of the Boulder Dam.

St. Thomas had endured a storied history: Originally settled by Mormon farmers from Utah who believed they were within the state of Utah, a later survey revealed the land to fall strictly within the boundaries of Nevada. Not wanting to pay taxes to Nevada, many of the farmers left. St. Thomas fell into a period of lawlessness, when squatters and saloons and gambling proliferated, before ultimately returning to its quiet existence as a second wave of Mormon farmers and business owners eventually took over the town once again.

Following a fire that destroyed the Muddy River bridge and the decision to construct the new bridge several miles north of St. Thomas, the town saw its fate taper off into a quiet place with no police or government buildings, where the schoolhouse doubled as the Mormon church.

As the United States planned the construction of the Boulder Dam about 40 miles away, the government began to buy out the remaining property owners still living in St. Thomas. The cemetery relocated to higher ground in nearby Overton. Eventually, following the dam's completion, water began filling what today is known as Lake Mead.

For 64 years the town of St. Thomas would remain submerged beneath the waters of Lake Mead—sometimes as deep as 60 feet below the lake's surface. Over the years, persistent drought conditions caused the reservoir's surface level to decline, and in 2002 the remains of St. Thomas were exposed for the first time in decades.

Today, St. Thomas sits within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. As such, an entrance fee or national parks pass is required to access the ghost town. Two trails allow hikers to walk from a parking lot at the end of a 3-mile gravel road—generally passable by standard passenger cars—about 1 mile to the ruins of the town. Both trails are about the same distance, one following a doubletrack sometimes used by park and archaeological vehicles and the other a singletrack that cuts through the tamarisk before emerging at the end of the townsite's former main street.

Only one lone informational kiosk sits at the edge of the parking lot, so it is well worth it for visitors to research the dynamic history of this town before their visit. One good resource is the National Park Service's visitors guide for St. Thomas.

The ghost town itself consists of little more than a few remaining foundations of buildings, some metal artifacts, and several cisterns. The National Park Service occasionally trims back the tamarisk, which allows people to explore building remains not far off of the better-maintained roadways. 

Though the hike is less than a mile to the first ruins, walking the perimeter of the town would total about 3 miles round trip from the parking area. There is no water and no shade along the hike, so be prepared. A vault toilet is the only amenity in the parking area.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Historical location. Relatively easy hike.

Cons

Can be extremely hot, dry, and without shade. Next to no informational signage at the townsite.

Trailhead Elevation

1,200.00 ft (365.76 m)

Net Elevation Gain

80.00 ft (24.38 m)

Features

Historically significant

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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