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Human history in this area extends back more than 10,000 years to man's arrival in the Southwest. The first people that can be positively identified in this region were known as the Basketmakers. They were probably forerunners of the Pueblo Indians who were farmers and traders.

 * 40,000 + years ago - Pleistocene fauna found in an old stream channel. Presence of Man not established.

 * 30,000 - 15,000 years ago - a shallow lake existed near Tule Springs.

 * 13,000 - 11,000 years ago - probable evidence of Man with extinct Pleistocene fauna.

 * 11,000 years ago - definite evidence of Man.

So, at present, we can say that Man might have been in the Lake Mead area more than 20,000 years ago, probably here about 13,000 years ago, and definitely here by 11,000 years ago.

The recorded history of the area began in 1826, when Jedediah Smith passed through on his first Southwest Expedition in search of beaver. Other early explorers were John C. Fremont, Lt. Edward Beale, Lt. Joseph C. Ives, and Major John Wesley Powell.

The explorers were followed by colonization and exploitation. Mormon farm settlements and roaring mining camps sprang up along the rivers and in the mountains. Lake Mead was named in honor of Dr. Elwood Mead. As Commissioner of Reclamation from 1924 thru 1936, he drafted new specifications for a giant project that would dam the Colorado River, impound the world's (at that time) largest artificial lake and provide flood control, irrigation supply and power generation. That project was Boulder Dam. We know it by a later name change as Hoover Dam. For more information click Hoover Dam  In 1935, Hoover Dam was completed and Lake Mead formed, covering such historic Mormon sites as Callville, Rioville, and St. Thomas.           

Meadview Area History

The Meadview area includes the areas of South Cove, Pearce Ferry, and Grand Wash.

Meadview is a small community located on the southern boundary of the LMNRA and about 10 miles from both Pearce Ferry and South Cove. It is surrounded on three sides by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Lake Mead National Recreational Area (LMNRA) lands. The community is of recent origin, having been started around 1960 as a retirement community. For more information........... Click: Chamber

Pearce Ferry was started in 1863 by Jacob Hamblin, bought by Pearce in 1876, and operated until 1891. This area became popular again during the Grand Canyon-Boulder Dam tours in the 1940's. A concession maintained a floating dock, supply depot, dining room, and had elaborate plans for improvement. The tour boats left Hemenway, stopped at Pearce Ferry, continued to Rampart Cave (discovered in 1916 by Willis Evans) and then continuing 12 miles into the Grand Canyon. The tour cost $101.00. The filling of Lake Mead, formed a delta at Pearce Ferry. This silting in, followed by the lowering of the lake level after 1941, forced the concession to be abandoned. Scenic flights were also part of the tourist trade in the 1930's and 1940's with airplanes landing on the strip at Pearce Ferry. Pearce Ferry is about 17 miles upstream from South Cove and serves as the primary terminus for river runners floating through the Grand Canyon. An undeveloped launching ramp allowed boaters access to the lower gorge of the Grand Canyon (Pierce Ferry is no longer usable for boat launching due to low water). Primitive camping is still allowed.

Mike Scanlon's Ferry, started in 1881, which was later bought by Tom Gregg, crossed the Colorado River at the area now known as Gregg's Hideout.

greggs hideoutgreggs hideou tfrom water

Gregg's Hideout by Land                               Gregg's Hideout by Sea


South Cove History

South Cove does not have a history pre-dating the establishment of the National Recreation Area. After the recreation area was established, a new paved road was constructed as a spur road off the Pearce Ferry road, extending down to the lake where a paved launch ramp was constructed.

Echo Bay History

Salt mines now under Lake Mead waters in the Echo Bay area, as well as near former St. Thomas, were once mined by Indians. The miners, using stone tools, would chip a circular groove into the salt, forming a knob which they would break off and carry away for their personal use and trading.

In 1864, Anson Call journeyed down the Virgin River to the Echo Bay area. He followed Echo Wash for a few miles, then turned back to the Colorado, where he picked the site of Callville for the Mormon Steamboat port.

In recent years, Moapa Valley ranchers have grazed their cattle in the Echo Wash, near the Bitter Springs, and in Bitter Springs Valley.

Echo Bay is near the old confluence of the Virgin and Colorado Rivers, where Powell ended his 1869 journey. Armijo, Smith, Ogden, and others followed the Virgin River to the Colorado River, passing close to Echo Bay.

Overton Beach History

The Basketmaker Indians lived at the Lost City, also called Pueblo Grande de Nevada, on the Muddy River near the Virgin river, probably before 500 A.D. Over the years, the Indians built pit houses and, later, two and three story houses. The earlier tribes hunted and gathered their food, while later people farmed extensively. The last were occupants of a large Mesa House before they disappeared by 1150 A.D. Pueblo Grande de Nevada, or Lost City, is an unfortunate choice of names, since it applies to the whole complex of villages scattered along the Virgin/Muddy Valleys. "Mesa House" is the term used for the last occupational period in the area - again the people were living in a number of villages during the Mesa House period around 1100-1150 A.D. Surveys and excavations of Lost City began in 1924 under the Southwestern Museum, most of the work being done from 1935-1938. Many artifacts and reconstructed pueblo houses are now at the Lost City Museum in Overton. Lake Mead waters cover the original site.

In 1865, the Mormons established St. Thomas, at the junction of the Muddy and Virgin Rivers. The colonists farmed, raised cotton, and worked with the Paiutes. Tax problems with the new State of Nevada developed in 1870. All but one family, Daniel Bonelli, returned to Utah. Three families returned in 1880, followed by others. In 1912, there was enough business to have a railroad branch built to St. Thomas. The town became the halfway stopping point on the Old Arrowhead Trail, having a hotel, good meals, and a reliable garage. Re-routing U.S. 91 and ceasing operations of Grand Gulch copper mine in the 1930's hurt the town's economy. Life returned more to normal with the discovery of a silica sand deposit, beginning operation of a salt mine, and the discovery of the Lost City. But then the Hoover Dam project was started. Evacuation notices were posted on everything for five years. No one left until rising water was spotted in the Virgin Canyon. Many of the buildings were moved to towns on higher ground. On June 11, 1938, the waters had been in the town for five days. The postmaster cancelled thousands of "last day" envelopes before he left for dry ground. Sometimes, when the lake gets low enough, buildings, dead trees, and rusted machinery can be seen.

Located three miles south of St. Thomas, on the west side of the Virgin River, was the famous mountain of salt. This necessity, also found in many caves in the area, was probably the reason for the site of the Lost City. Over the years, it had grown to fantastic proportions - (3 miles long, all salt, and as clear as glass). Its names include Big Salt Cliff, Salvation Salt, Salt Point, and Salt Mountain. Lake Mead waters now cover this huge salt deposit, as well as most of the caves. It is no wonder our water is a little on the hard side!

In 1939, Overton Beach was one of the three National Park Service areas of the Boulder Dam National Recreation Area to have facilities.

Temple Bar History

Daniel Bonelli left St. Thomas after it was abandoned in 1871. He built his home at Junction City, at the mouth of the Virgin River, and renamed it Rioville. Bonelli raised cattle and agricultural crops, and mined salt for sale to the miners from Temple Bar to El Dorado. Bonelli recognized another need, so Rioville also became known as Bonelli's Ferry. The ferry operated until 1920. Rioville had a store, post office, and a Pony Express station. Daniel Bonelli is credited with naming "The Mormon Temple" at Temple Bar.

The Temple Bar Mining Company produced placer gold from 1894 to 1898. After having problems securing driftwood from the river, they shipped the needed timbers from Kingman. The miners picked up their mail at Rioville.

Many Indian artifacts are found in the Temple Bar area, such as a large pottery bowl discovered in 1974. 


Mountain Massacre History

PHOENIX (AP) - (Tablet could provide massacre clues)

The National Park Service is trying to determine the authenticity of a lead tablet found near Page that could add insight to one of the darkest moments in the history of the Mormon Church.

The piece of lead scratched with misspelled words was found in January 2002 by a National Park Service volunteer who was cleaning up the ruins of the Lees Ferry Fort at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s an exciting find but one tempered by caution as officials try to determine whether it’s history or hoax.

If it is real, it’s an insight into the mind of the only man executed for the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which more than 120 men, women and children from Arkansas and Missouri were killed by Mormons and Paiutes while traveling through southern Utah.

The lead tablet, signed “J.D. LEE,” may have been scratched by John Doyle Lee, who was executed in 1877 for his prominent role in the massacre. On the tablet, Lee pins blame for the massacre on then-church President Brigham Young.

“ON ORDERS FROM PRES YOUNG” is written on the plaque, shortly after the writer takes responsibility for “THE FANCHER,” a probable reference to Capt. Alexander Fancher’s ill-fated wagon train.

“I don’t give much credence to this lead piece,” Dean May, a University of Utah history professor who is Mormon, told The Arizona Republic. “I don’t think that it’s very different from anything John D. Lee was saying in public at that time, with no evidence other than his own word.” Church historians have found no evidence that Young plotted the killings.

The historical significance of the tablet may be that Lee actually believed that Young had ordered the killings through local church leader George Smith.

The National Park Service has been checking on whether the tablet is authentic since it was discovered in January 2002. Meanwhile it has set aside the tablet at its archaeological center in Tucson.

“We’re hoping to see if the metal was from the 1870s, in which case it might be authentic, or from the 1920s, where it wouldn’t be,” said Char Obergh, a Glen canyon spokeswoman.

The Mormon Church is reserved in its statements about the find.

“We think the National Park Service is taking the right approach in seeking to learn whether the object is authentic,”  Glen Leonard, said in a written statement. Leonard is director of the Mormon church’s Museum of Church History and Art.  

The Mountain Meadows Massacre began on Sept. 7, 1857, when a California-bound wagon train traveling a northern spur of the Old Spanish Trail was besieged by Mormon settlers, Paiutes and the local militia.

After five days of shooting at one another, the locals convinced the Arkansas and Missouri emigrants that they could have safe passage through Mountain Meadows if they gave up their weapons and left some of their wagons behind. Once they were out in the open, the emigrants were attacked and at least 120 of them were killed.

For years, the Mormon Church blamed the incident on the Paiutes. But in recent years, the church, prodded by the emigrants’ descendants and the state’s secular press, has become much more attentive to the massacre, dedicating a memorial at the site in 1999.

In From Salt Lake City May 1, 2001

A forensic examiner says the lead tablet blaming Mormon Church leader Brigham Young for the 1857 massacre of 120 Arkansas pioneers is a fake. William Flynn, a private Phoenix examiner hired by the National Park Service, said that the engraved sheet of lead appeared to be the work of convicted con man and alleged forger Mark Hofmann. Hoffman is serving a life sentence for the bombing deaths of two people. The slayings were an effort to cover up his extensive document forgeries, most of which involved Mormon history and seemed intent on shaking the LDS church's foundation. 


Pinion Pine

Lonely Pinion Pine on the Cliffs

(Photos by Annie)

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 Revised 03/09/2019  
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