St Thomas Ghost Town is located near the north end of Lake Mead at the confluence of the Muddy River and Virgin River. The signage for the St Thomas dirt access road can be seen on the east side of the road by the National Recreation Area entrance gate. The dirt road that goes to the St Thomas Loop Trailhead is well maintained and most passenger cars will have no problem getting there. After arriving at the parking area, the remnants of the town of St Thomas can be seen in the distance from the trailhead atop the sandstone butte.
The town of St Thomas is located where the Muddy River connects with the Virgin River before into the Lake Mead Reservoir estuary at Stewarts Point. This old ghost town was established in 1865 by Mormon settlers. A few years later in history, most of the local Mormons abandoned St Thomas when the state line was shifted on the official government map, because St Thomas was no longer in the State Of Utah. The state line border shift caused local taxes to rise dramatically and the Mormon settlers wanted no part of that situation.
Later in 1938, the Federal Government purchased the town of St Thomas after Hoover Dam was built, because this area would soon be flooded by the high Lake Mead waterline. 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. 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 the Lake Mead body of water can currently be seen just a little further south.
Only the cement slabs, stone walls and building foundations are all that is left 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 bass fishing hotspot.
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 pictures during a colorful sunset in this place. The solitary old chimney 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 unobstructed. 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 a full 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 animals 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 harmless to humans. Wild burro, escaped free range cattle and wild horse droppings can be seen on the ground all over 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 mines, but this is pretty much the only hazard to avoid.
When the Mormons left St Thomas due to the border shift, they established the towns of Overton 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 Overton, which is where the old St Thomas Graveyard was relocated. The Lost City Museum and the St Thomas Graveyard in Overton are Moapa Valley historic sites that are well worth visiting and the information gained will provide insight into the history of the old ghost town.
St Thomas Ghost Town is a one of a kind scenic destination that is well worth checking out while 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!
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