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August 1, 2014

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Archaeologists returning to St. Thomas

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For more information on St. Thomas, call 293-8990.

The remnants of a pioneer town unearthed by Lake Mead's receding waters was to receive a visit Feb. 23 from archaeologists sketching the site.

From 1865 until 1938, St. Thomas thrived as a town of farms, homes and stores before the erection of the Hoover Dam and creation of Lake Mead flooded the city. Drought exposed the city's 146 remaining features in 2004.

"We document how big it actually was," Lake Mead archaeological technician Erin Eichenberg said. "We do a little bit each year."

In addition to sketching features to scale, the team photographs and assesses the town's condition. Sometimes, they document artifacts if they are dateable or if they fear looters will swipe them, such as a complete medicine bottle discovered last year. Eventually, Eichenberg said, the town will disintegrate, but by then its record should be preserved.

A group of volunteers monitor the area as well, checking for structural damage, vandalism and even the presence of cattle.

In January, workers also removed tamarisk from the town for the first time since 2004. The invasive plant can smother buildings and the former streets of the town.

"They've cleared the big features," Eichenberg said. However, some underground wells and canals remain hidden by the plant.

The route leading to St. Thomas has additionally been repaired after flooding washed out the road roughly two weeks ago.

Eichenberg shared the history of St. Thomas Feb. 19 at the Boulder Dam Hotel, and encouraged visitors to go the site. But she cautioned hikers not to walk on the ruins or remove artifacts.

"It's good for people to know about it, get educated about it and leave no trace," she said.

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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