Lake Mead Has Hundreds of Bodies Waiting to Be Found

As its water levels continue to drop, officials believe that Lake Mead has hundreds more bodies waiting to be found.

Lake Mead's water levels are dropping due to the ongoing megadrought in the western United States. The U.S.'s largest man-made reservoir has made national headlines recently not just due to its receding waters, but because of the gruesome finds being uncovered as the water recedes.

Since May, five human bodies have been discovered in the lake. One set of human remains were discovered in a barrel—police believe the remains belong to the victim of a mob-related shooting. There has been no further information on what caused the other deaths so far.

According to Steve Schafer, a local resident and the owner of environmental services company Earth Resource Group, which is working to uncover the bodies, there will be many more.

"There are a lot of bodies which have still not been found at the bottom of Lake Mead. Most are just legitimately drowning victims but I'm sure there are some nefarious ones out there, like the news is reporting and the [body in the] barrel. I'm sure there are going to be more," Schafter told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Lake Mead
A stock photo shows Lake Mead. Human remains have been discovered in the lake. Kirk Van Slyke/Getty

Even before the water levels began dropping, Lake Mead was considered one of America's deadliest national parks. Since the lake was created in the 1930s, around 300 people have drowned in the reservoir. This figure is on top of any other bodies that died from other means that may be in the lake.

Schafer said they work to uncover the bodies to "give back to the families" who lost them. Since 2013, Schafer and other volunteers have pulled 10 to 12 bodies from the lake.

According to the National Park Service, the latest set of human remains was discovered on August 15, at the lake's Swim Beach. This was the third skeleton to be found in this area of the lake.

The state the bodies have been found in remains unclear.

A forensic anthropology professor at Colorado Mesa University, Melissa Connor, previously told Newsweek that they the bodies within the Lake may have turned into a "soap-like consistency known as adipocere."

"My guess is that most of the remains found to date, if recent, may be some combination of adipocere and skeleton," Connor said. "There are also historic and prehistoric sites under Lake Mead, and if burials associated with those sites washed out, they would most likely be totally skeletal. A lot depends on where in the lake a body is deposited, and what lake. Lake environments are in layers, with the deepest being very cold and having few scavengers."

As of August 23, Lake Mead's water level was at 1,043.48 feet. While the water levels rose slightly in recent weeks due to heavy rainfall in the area, the reservoir remains only 27 percent at its full capacity.