Wednesday, April 4, 2012


"Welcome, everyone. I am your dam guide, Arnie. Now, I'm about to take you through a fully functional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour. And please, take all the dam pictures you want. Now, are there any dam questions?"...VEGAS VACATION
Right in our backyard...there's a tiny bit more to NV than just the gaming.  Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam continues to draw crowds of nearly a million visitors a year, more than 70 years after its creation.  Considered to be the world’s largest dam and an engineering marvel at the time of its construction in the 1930s, Hoover Dam brings much-needed water and power for public/private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California.  Located in the Black Canyon, about 30 miles SE of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which forms the border between Nevada and Arizona.
Since 1900, the Black and Boulder Canyons had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project, and construction began in 1930.   Despite the remote location and harsh working conditions, it was completed in less than five years - two years ahead of schedule, and well under budget.   The lowest wage for a Hoover Dam worker was 50 cents an hour - the highest was $1.25.  “High scalers”, the workers who hung from ropes on the canyon walls as they drilled with jackhammers and packed dynamite, included circus acrobats, among others.
Hoover Dam is 726 feet high, 45 feet thick at the top and 660 feet at the bottom, and is larger than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.  The dam is filled with 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete, or enough to pave a strip 16 feet wide and 8 inches thick from San Francisco to New York City.  If the heat produced by the curing concrete could have been concentrated in a baking oven, it could have baked 500,000 loaves of bread per day for three years.
Holding back Lake Mead, the dam is located near quaint Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed solely for workers on the dam project.  Boulder City is the only town in Nevada to prohibit gambling, a regulation imposed in the 1930s.
The Bureau of Reclamation has offered tours of this National Historic Landmark since 1937.  Tourists are not only intrigued by the immense size of the dam and its huge hydroelectric generators, but also by the elegant Art Deco designs on the dam’s four towers, spillways, and power plant. The Nevada side plaza features two Modernist-style bronze sculptures called the Winged Figures of the Republic and a polished terrazzo floor. Here you’ll also find a plaque commemorating the 96 workers who died during the dam’s construction. Contrary to a popular myth, however, no workers are buried in the dam’s concrete.
Two tours of the dam are currently available, and are well worth the time and money spent.   The view from the dam also offers a breathtaking look at Lake Mead, the country's largest man-made reservoir. Although water levels have been low recently, Lake Mead can store up to 9.2 trillion gallons of water, equal to two years of the river's annual flow. It also has become a popular recreation area, sought out by more than 9 million visitors each year.
A spectacular four-lane highway bridge arching across the Colorado River opened in late 2010 and carries traffic between Nevada and Arizona. Completed in October 2010, the "Mike O' Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge" offers breathtaking views that were once only available by helicopter.  The original two-lane highway across the dam could no longer handle the 14,000 vehicles that travel here each day. Construction on the 1,900-foot-long structure began in 2005. An impressive feat of engineering, the supporting twin-rib arch span echoes the elegant curves of the dam itself.
The bypass bridge, located approximately 1,500 feet south of the dam, is 1,900 feet long. The arch span stretches 1,060 feet, and the deck stands 900 feet above the river. The bridge’s pedestrian walkway gives visitors expansive views of Hoover Dam, Black Canyon, Colorado River and Lake Mead.  Visitors have access to drive to the bridge and then take a walking path.
We did this trek in mid July, so were very appreciative of the drizzly weather that day, when our summer heat can hit highs of 127 degrees.  The brighter pictures here were taken yesterday (April 3rd).  I had heard that there is a spectacular shadow cast by the bridge across the face of the dam, in the late afternoon...not knowing exactly how to gauge the exact (or close) time, I arrived about 2 hrs. too soon for the full spectacle - two hours before sunset should just about do it, for anyone interested in some spectacular shots of their own.
Visitors can cross from Nevada to Arizona on the 1,900-foot-long bridge - informative placards mark the path before and during the bridge walk. The construction of the bridge was an idea that evolved in the 1960s, but didn't actually come to fruition until 40 years later. This bypass was created not only to reduce traffic (which anyone who has driven along the old road knows all too well), but to protect Lake Mead and the Colorado River from hazardous spills and explosions.
You can learn more about the bypass construction project at Hoover Dam Bypass US "93".  For info on Hoover Dam itself, click on USBR Hoover Dam.


Jackie said...

Charlie made me sit through a documentry on the building of that Dam thing...very interesting!
I wish our lake would fill back up!

oldgreymare said...

Great post. I have yet to see or travel the bridge. Once Ben left school in AZ I had no reason to go up that way. Maybe when we go visit Heather? Anything is better than the hour it used to take to get over the bridge and through the security..

DearHelenHartman said...

Breathtaking. This is a dream vacay for me. So glad to be able to take it via your blog.

Melanie Schofield said...

DAM good post!!

Colleen said...

I have seen the new bridge from below where one takes a tour of the damn and the entire tour is so interesting which I did years ago! Great pictures! Can't wait to go across the new bridge.

Ronna said...

Great narrative on this. Thanks Tanya.

Mandy said...

I love the shots of the lake. I miss Lake Mead so much! Not that I really need much reminding but you posts are really reminding me of how much I miss Vegas!