Boulder City - The Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City - The Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

North Thru Nevada

Saint Thomas
Above the Waterline
by Everett Chase

Unlike the ocean tides drifting in and out by the pull of the sun and the moon revealing the underbelly of the glistening shore, the town of St. Thomas waits until the skies dry up and the rivers flow thin before it making it's appearance.

Buried by the waters of the Colorado River in the 1930's St. Thomas has emerged for its second showing to the joy of treasure seekers, historians, and archeologists.

"It has been exposed in the past, in the 1960's," says Steve Daron, Lake Mead National Recreation Area Archeologist." But it hasn't been affected by continuous visitation so the foundations that are there are in fairly pristine condition."

Unlike other areas exposed to human traffic, the foundations of St. Thomas have not been overrun by vehicles from that era or the typical off road variety destroying many pristine sites in our southwest deserts now.

Daron, who came to the Lake Mead Area in 1994 from the Midwest Archeological Center out of Lincoln Nebraska, has taken a unique liking to the St. Thomas ruins. So much so he is not only knowledgable from an Archeologists point of view, but historian, exployer, theologin, and maybe even chief cook and bottle washer.

Daron's curiosity with St. Thomas began with the knowledge of a town submerged under Lake Mead and his inquisitive mind wanting to know what and why. When it became apparent the town was going to become accessible, he took an active interest in doing more research.

"With the drought, the lake levels started to drop and I new it was going to become an issue and we would have to deal with it," Daron says.

"The Bureau of Reclamation prediction is that it will be another 10 years before lake levels come back up and it becomes inundated."

The Park Service is proceeding on the basis of that prediction and are in the process of developing an interpretive plan for the area.

The plan includes proper signage for directions and indentification of specific areas, as well as trails for visitors to follow for the best experience and the least damage.

"We want to keep parts of the area opened up," Steve says, "so people can go down and look around and see something and learn about its past and the people who were there first."

The people who were there first were a group of Mormons sent by Brigam Young to farm the Muddy River valley and to help a string of settlements bring supplies up the Colorado River to Calville then overland to St. Thomas, St. George, and Salt Lake City.

"I believe the original settlement of St. Thomas in 1865 was farther south near the confluence of the Muddy River and the Virgin River," Daron says.

The people of St. Thomas were there to meet John Wesley Powell on his first expedition down the Colorado River, which is about 20 miles from the St. Thomas site, according to Daron.

"It is also interesting that in 1870 there were surveys done establishing where exactly the state boundaries were. When the folks from St. Thomas first came down they thought they were in Utah, but they found out they were in Nevada. As the story goes the state of Nevada told them they would have to pay back taxes and they would have to pay in gold."

According to Daron, with that tax problem hanging over their head, and to be paid in gold, Brigham Young release the St. Thomas people from their commitment. Many of the residents left the area while new people moved in and others survived through the episode. Through the next ten years, original and new residents made their homes in St. Thomas until the advent of Hoover Dam in their future.

"When the Boulder Dam Act was passed there was money allotted and the government bought people out," according to Daron. "I think people started moving out in the early 30's when they knew the dam was going to be constructed.

"People moved their homes to different locations, Overton or Las Vegas. Historic accounts of people leaving is of people setting fire to the buildings," Steve says.

This is not the end. Like everything else, it's just changing. Check in with the Park Service for information. The entrance to St. Thomas is adjacent to Valley of Fire entrance on the North Shore Road around Lake Mead - about 60 miles from the visitor center located on Hwy 93.

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