A National Landmark considered to be one of the greatest engineering works in history Hoover Dam served as a symbol of hope during the Great Depression. Hoover Dam is located approximately 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas Nevada in Black Canyon on the Colorado River straddling the Arizona-Nevada border.

726.5 foot tall Hoover Dam is one of a series of dams built to provide flood control, silt control and water storage along the Colorado River—the third longest river in the United States. Hoover Dam was the first of the large reclamation projects on the Colorado. Lake Mead—formed by water backed up by the dam—is the largest man-made lake in the U.S. The lake provides year round recreation to 9 million visitors a year and has a surface area of about 247 square miles when full.

Even though it was erected in Black Canyon, Hoover Dam was known for many years as Bolder Dam after the Boulder Canyon Project Act which authorized its construction. The colossal project was renamed Hoover Dam in 1947—twelve years after it was completed—for former President Herbert Hoover. Hoover had been involved with the early planning stages of the dam while serving as Secretary of Commerce for President Warren Harding. Calvin Coolidge was president when the Boulder Canyon Project Act was signed in 1928. Herbert Hoover was president during the majority of construction of what was then called Boulder Dam and Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at the dedication of the dam on September 30, 1935 two years after he became president in 1933.

Before Hoover Dam construction could begin Boulder City had to be built to house government and contractor employees along with a seven mile road from Boulder City to the dam site. In addition almost 23 miles of railroad line from Las Vegas to Boulder City plus another 10 miles to the dam site were laid and a 222-mile power transmission line from San Bernardino, California had to be built to provide power for construction. Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity type dam weighing more than 6.6 million tons and containing more than .25 million cubic yards of concrete requiring more than 5 million barrels of cement. The dam was constructed with large interlocking blocks ranging from 25 to 60 feet square. It was completed 2 years ahead of schedule and $15 million under budget.

It took five years to build the dam, power plant and appurtenant works. Appurtenant works include structures such as spillways, low level outlets and water conduits. Another 6.5 years were required to fill Lake Mead. Four reinforced-concrete intake towers above the dam—two on each side of the canyon and consequently in different states—provide water to turn the power plant turbines. There are 17 main turbines and two station-service units located in a U-shaped structure at the base of the dam. They produce between 2 and 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. The energy generated at Hoover Dam is distributed to the States of Arizona and Nevada and several cities in California and Nevada.

Built during the great depression, the construction of Hoover Dam attracted 16,000 workers—many with their families—from around the country to work in a very hostile environment. Many lived in tents or shacks for as long as three years without clean water, toilets or protection from the extreme weather. 96 men died in accidents while building the dam. Several dozen more died from heat or carbon monoxide poisoning. Possibly hundreds of wives, children and others died from disease, polluted water or heat.

For security reasons some vehicles are not allowed to cross Hoover Dam including 18-wheel semi-trucks, commercial buses with luggage and moving vans or other box type vehicles longer than 26.5 feet. Any vehicle may be inspected before being allowed to cross the dam. Visitors to Hoover Dam can view a number of heroic size artworks including a 30-foot tall bronze sculpture by Oskar Hansen which symbolizes “the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific achievement”. The depiction of male angels is unusual (they are typically referred to as ‘winged figures’).

Another sculpture—outside the High Scaler Cafe—by Steven Liguori depicts a high scaler in the likeness of Joe Kine, one of the last surviving men to hold that job at Hoover Dam. High scalers hung hundreds of feet in the air on the side of the canyon knocking away loose rock and setting dynamite charges with a jackhammer. The Hoover Dam Visitor Center provides information on the creation of the dam in the form or an audio-visual presentation and numerous exhibits, photographs and memorabilia. Visitors can also descend 561 feet into the dams interior to an access tunnel to view the turbines in the power plant itself.

Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

A spectacular bridge, centerpiece of the Hoover Dam Bypass, threatens to overshadow the Hoover Dam as the newest engineering marvel at the same location. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, begun in January, 2005—official opening October 16, 2010, is 1,900 feet long, 900 feet above the Colorado River and 1,500 feet south of Hoover Dam. There are a number of tours to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas with one that also includes a Colorado River raft trip below the dam. Some Grand Canyon tours either stop at the dam or fly over it on the way to the canyon.


By | 2017-11-16T20:05:43+00:00 November 3rd, 2017|Las Vegas, Leaving Las Vegas|0 Comments

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