Overton Beach Area Latest Casualty of Low Water Level at Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The continuing drop in lake levels has forced the closure of the Overton Beach visitor services facilities at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The road to the area is being gated to restrict vehicle access and facilities mothballed for what the park hopes is a temporary closure.
The park superintendent issued a special closure order for the Overton Beach Access Road to vehicular traffic, effective April 25. The road will be gated at its intersection with Northshore Road, although the Overton Beach area is still open to visitors who choose to enter on foot or by boat. Only vehicle access is restricted, making the area in effect a backcountry site.
Falling lake levels, the result of an on-going drought in the region, are the culprit. The Overton Beach water treatment facility will shut down as its water intake becomes inoperable at a lake elevation of 1,093 feet, which is expected in early May. Without water and sewage services, the park won't able to operate restrooms, the fish cleaning station or RV pump-out stations. These services are available at Echo Bay, which is located ten miles south of Overton Beach.
The treatment facility will be mothballed, and a park spokesman said the park plans to restore visitor services to the area, "once more stable water levels return."
Overton Beach is located on the northern end of the Overton Arm, a long extension of the lake that follows the former channel of the Virgin River. Maps of the area on the park website may be useful if you're aren't familiar with the area.
It's a bit ironic that the number of visitor facilities at Overton Beach have been declining over the past decade; in 1939, shortly after Lake Mead was impounded, Overton Beach was one of only three sites on the huge reservoir to have facilities for the public.
As recently as 2007, the area included a public launch ramp, restrooms, fish cleaning station and ranger station. A concessioner operated a RV park, store, fuel station, dry boat storage, long-term trailer village, and a marina with 125 slips. The marina facilities were divided into two smaller sections and moved to other concessioner operations on the lake at Temple Bar and Callville Bay in the spring of 2007.
Except for a brief uptick in the spring of 2005, water levels in Lake Mead have been declining since September of 1998, when the lake elevation stood at 1215.95 feet above mean sea level. The Bureau of Reclamation reports that figure was just above 1098 feet this week, a vertical drop of well over 100 feet in the past dozen years. The lake currently holds about 44% of its maximum capacity. A bar graph at this link provides a good visual of lake levels since impoundment began in the 1930s.
The park staff points out that despite the closure at Overton Beach, other facilities in the park are open for business. The park website includes information to help you plan a visit.