Decades-old skeleton found in barrel at drought-starved Lake Mead in Nevada

Lake Mead is a water reservoir formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Southwestern United States and is viewed at 30 per cent capacity on January 11, 2022 near Boulder City, Nevada. George Rose / Getty Images

A harrowing discovery has been made at Nevada’s Lake Mead over the weekend, as drought depletes one of the largest U.S. reservoirs.

Boaters on the lake spotted an old rusted barrel on Sunday afternoon. National Park Service rangers, attending to the area, discovered human skeletal remains inside.

And now, investigators are preparing to find more bodies as the water levels further recede.

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“I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS-TV on Monday.

Las Vegas police told CNN that the person inside the barrel was likely a victim of homicide in the 1980s, based on personal items found inside. They declined to talk about cause of death or any of the personal items that were found alongside the remains.

Spencer told CNN that the barrel would have been dropped hundreds of metres offshore back in the 80s, but because the lake has receded so much in that time, that area is now considered shoreline.

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Shawna Hollister was enjoying a day at the lake when the barrel was discovered.

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“We heard a woman scream from the side of the beach and then my husband went over to obviously see what was wrong,” Hollister told KLAS-TV. “And then he realized there was a body there in a barrel.”

Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream are the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S., part of a system that provides water to more than 40 million people, tribes, agriculture and industry in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and across the southern border in Mexico.

FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2021, file photo a buoy rests on the ground at a closed boat ramp on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nev. John Locher / The Associated Press

The lake’s level has dropped so much that the uppermost water intake at drought-stricken Lake Mead became visible last week.

The reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam has become so depleted that Las Vegas is now pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead, which also stretches into Arizona.

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With files from the Associated Press

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