Invasive quagga (Dreissena bugnesis) and zebra (Dreissena ploymorpha) mussels have rapidly spread throughout North America. Understanding the relationships between environmental variables and quagga mussels during the early stages of invasion will help management strategies and allow researchers to predict patterns of future invasions. Quagga mussels were detected in Lake Mead, NV/AZ in 2007, we monitored early invasion dynamics in 3 basins (Boulder Basin, Las Vegas Bay, Overton Arm) bi-annually from 2008-2011. Mean quagga density increased over time during the first year of monitoring and stabilized for the subsequent two years at the whole-lake scale (8 to 132 individuals·m-2, geometric mean), in Boulder Basin (73 to 875 individuals·m-2), and in Overton Arm(2 to 126 individuals·m-2). In Las Vegas Bay, quagga mussel density was low (9 to 44 individuals·m-2), which was correlated with high sediment metal concentrations and warmer (> 30°C) water temperatures associated with that basin. Carbon content in the sediment increased with depth in Lake Mead and during some sampling periods quagga density was also positively correlated with depth, but more research is required to determine the significance of this interaction. Laboratory growth experiments suggested that food quantity may limit quagga growth in Boulder Basin, indicating an opportunity for population expansion in this basin if primary productivity were to increase, but was not the case in Overton Arm. Overall quagga mussel density in Lake Mead is highly variable and patchy, suggesting that temperature, sediment size, and sediment metal concentrations, and sediment carbon content all contribute to mussel distribution patterns. Quagga mussel density in the soft sediment of Lake Mead expanded during initial colonization, and began to stabilize approximately 3 years after the initial invasion.