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The Fate of The Lake Mead Lodge

What was once a luxurious retreat for the rich and famous is now forlorn and forgotten, a decaying husk of what it used to be. To anyone that drives by, this crumbling old building probably wouldn't seem like anything special. Just another closed down something or other. None would guess this was once one of the most desirable places to stay while vacationing at Lake Mead?

Construction of the Lake Mead Lodge began in the late 1930s, shortly after Lake Mead itself came into being with the construction of the Hoover Dam. The hotel officially opened in October, 1941 as the Hualapai Lodge; it was the first hotel built along the shores of the new lake and instantly became a very popular tourist destination. Lake Mead was the first National Recreation Area in the United States, and the novelty of seeing one of the largest man-made lakes in the country as well as the dam that created it caused a massive influx of visitors to the area. For instance, there were 844,733 visitors to Lake Mead in 1941 alone, and over 3 million had already flocked to it in the few short years of its life.

Postcard for the Lake Mead Lodge circa 1950, courtesy Boulder City Historical Society

Unfortunately, the entrance of the US into WWII caused a drastic drop in tourism by the following year. While the tourists stopped coming, the lodge was able to sustain itself thanks to the patronage of locals in the Las Vegas and Boulder City areas that still made the drive out there for nights out. Alcohol and gambling was banned in Boulder City at the time--in fact Boulder City is one of the few places in Nevada where gambling is still banned to this day (they lifted the alcohol ban in 1969)--so the lodge was the closest place for Boulder City locals to enjoy those pastimes.

It wasn't until 1945 that it was renamed as the Lake Mead Lodge. This was more of a marketing decision; it is on the shore of Lake Mead and many found "Hualapai" too hard to say or spell. That year also marked the end of the war, and the tourists returned en mass.

While many other lodges and hotels sprung up along the shores of Lake Mead over the years, lake Mead Lodge remained a popular place to stay for decades. In the 1961 The Lake Mead Marina was constructed a short distance away. Sporting the world's larges floating restaurant at the time, this new attraction brought even more popularity to the lodge.

However, the party began to end in the early 2000s. Water levels had been steadily dropping year after year since 1983 and the receding shoreline meant that the lodge slowly became further and further away from the water. Guests used to be able to walk from their rooms too the beach and could launch their boats directly onto the lake, but that eventually required a short drive from the hotel.

The final blow came in 2008 when the Lake Mead Marina was moved 3 miles south as a result of the dropping water levels of the lake. Landlocked and essentially isolated along the scenic drive, the lodge now had no real appeal to draw in tourist dollars. The Lake Mead Lodge closed its doors for good in 2009 and has been abandoned ever since.

Today, only ghosts stay in the Lake Mead Lodge. It has sustained some damage from vandals, but mostly its the desert itself that is slowly reclaiming the empty buildings and crumbling parking lot. True to Las Vegas culture, there is nothing to indicate former importance of this neglected piece of Southern Nevada history. Visitors to the national park are forbidden from even approaching these buildings, so take your photos from the roadside if you do happen upon the remains of the Lake Mead Lodge.



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  1. Feel very fortunate to have stayed here in 1992 and it was wonderful, especially its location. People don't know what they missed. Thanks for the post.

  2. my wife and I knew of the history of many hollywood visitors for years 50's early 60's Wonderful place and just distant enough from town ...Im sad when I passed it for years I even made the call to park district which warned me STAY AWAY lol I wanted to get a gathering and refund an effort to revive ,,, NOw its vacant wasteland memories only of lucy desi jerry dean etc etc


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