St Thomas Ghost Town ~ Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The St Thomas Ghost Town is located near the north end of Lake Mead. By following Northshore Road toward the north toward the Valley Of Fire and Logandale, the signage for the St Thomas access point can be seen on the east side of the road near the north entrance gate. The dirt road that leads to the St Thomas Loop Trail is well maintained and most passenger cars will have no problem, although a 4×4 will provide a smoother ride. After arriving at the parking area, the remnants of the town of St Thomas can be seen in the distance from the hiking trailhead atop the sandstone butte.
The town of St Thomas is located where the Virgin River flows into what is now Lake Mead, but used to be the Colorado River basin. This old ghost town was established in 1865 by Mormon settlers. Sometime a little later in history, most of the local Mormons abandoned St Thomas when the state line was shifted on the official government map and St Thomas was no longer in the State Of Utah. The state line border shift that caused St Thomas to be in Nevada also caused local taxes to rise and the Mormon settlers wanted no part of that situation, so most moved on.
Later in 1938, the Federal Government purchased the town of St Thomas after Hoover Dam was built, because this area would soon be flooded with the new Lake Mead water. The remaining residents of St Thomas were evacuated and the entire town was razed in order to reduce aquatic obstacles, before the water of the newly created Lake Mead covered the town. St Thomas remained submerged for many years, before the water level of Lake Mead eventually receded to its current record low level. St Thomas was partially submerged only a few years ago and now this entire ghost town is high and dry above the water line. The Virgin River can be seen in in the distance across the dry lake bed plain and Lake Mead can be seen too, just a little further south.
Only the cement slabs, stone walls and building foundations are all that remain of St Thomas. A long row of tree stumps that once bordered upon the main street through town are all that remains of the old shade trees. The original wooden buildings have long since rotted and decayed. The old water wells are still intact and they are now sealed with iron hatches for safety’s sake. Even a few lost boat anchors can be seen laying around, from back in the days when the submerged town was a Striped Bass fishing hotspot.
The St Thomas Ghost Town certainly does have a surrealistic look! There are a few staircases that lead to nowhere but the sky. A photographer can easily catch just the right angle to create some memorable surrealistic pictures during a colorful sunset in this place. The solitary old chimneys with the desert mountains in the background also add to the weird visual effect.
The St Thomas Loop Hiking Trail is 2.5 miles long and the trail is well maintained. The start of the trail snakes its way downhill, then it is all flat silty lake bottom terrain the rest of the way. The trail passes close to all the buildings in the ghost town, so the views are good. The hike is easy in the cooler months of the year and it is rewarding to see the remains of historic old St Thomas in person to gain the fullest impression.
As a reminder, packing a big water jug is necessary in the arid desert climate, especially on hot summer days. The old lake bottom is covered with grassy growth and where there is vegetation, there is wildlife. Most of the predators and snakes only come out after dark, but it is always best to be wary of rattlesnakes. A few coyotes can sometimes be seen passing through by day and they are usually harmless to humans. Wild burro, free range cattle and wild horse droppings can be seen on the ground all over the place at St Thomas, because these animals feed on the marsh grass that used to be covered with lake water. One simply has to watch their step at times in this ghost town because of the many dung land mine obstacles, but at least this is pretty much the only hazard to avoid in the downtown area.
When the Mormons left St Thomas due to border shift, they established the towns of Glendale and Logandale in the Moapa Valley, just upstream along the Muddy River and Virgin River. These towns are located on State Road 169 close to I-15, so this is a nice pathway to Lake Mead too. There are plenty of historic sites to see in Logandale, which is where the old St Thomas Graveyard was relocated. The St Thomas Museum and the St Thomas Graveyard are Moapa Valley historic sites that are worth visiting and the information gained will provide insight into the history of the old ghost town. Horse back rides and ATV vehicle rentals can be found in the Moapa Valley and in the nearby town of Mesquite, if exploring more of the remote destinations is on the agenda.
St Thomas Ghost Town is a one of a kind scenic destination that is well worth checking out when in the Las Vegas area. When touring the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, be sure to set aside a few hours to wander around this old historic ghost town that used to be such a great fishing hole!