For those interested in the marvels of engineering there are plenty of impressive feats of engineering to visit across the United States. There is the massive Arch Gateway monument in St. Louis, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that is also worth the visit. Another is the Hoover Dam on the border between Nevada and Arizona.

It is a testament to man's ability to tame nature. The Colorado River was tamed and its water harnessed for electricity generation. This after all is the river that gouged out the mighty Grand Canyon.

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The History Of The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is a massive concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River creating Lake Mead. It was built during the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936.

The Hoover Dam is named after President Herbert Hoover who oversaw the bill for its construction. It took thousands of works and cost over a hundred lives (health and safety standards were different then).

  • Naming: It Was Renamed Boulder Dam During the Roosevelt Administration (It Reverted to Hoover Dam In 1947

The sheer size of a concrete structure like this had never been built before and many of the techniques used to construct it were unproven. It was built by the ambitious Six Companies, Inc. and despite the challenges, it was turned over to the federal government more than two years ahead of schedule.

Prior to 2010 the busy US Route 93 wound down the canyon to cross the dam as a bridge. Today it is bypassed by the also impressive Hoover Dam Bypass that towers high above the dam.

  • Width: 660 Feet Thick At Its Base
  • Lake Mead: The Largest Reservoir In The USA when Full (By Volume)

The story of how the dam was built is captivating, one can read about it on the National Park Service or watch the National Geographic documentary Big, Bigger, Biggest: Dam Season 2, Episode 8.

  • Daylight Saving: Arizona Does Not Observe Daylight Saving So The Time Is The Same For Half Of The Year

Nevada and Arizona are both in different time zones. Consequently, one half of the dam is a different time zone from the other half. Visitors can see large clocks displaying the different time zones on opposite sides of the dam.

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Reason For The Dam And Its Impact

The Hoover Dam stores water that irrigates 2 million acres of farm fields, generates enough power to supply 1.3 million people, holds back floodwaters, and stores water for times of drought. In 1905 a catastrophic flooding of Colorado ran wild for months destroying homes, crops, damaging highways, and created the Salton Sea.

The Hoover Dam has had an enormous impact on the development of Las Vegas. In 1931 the city legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks (apparently one of the early attractions to Sin City was a divorce).

But also, this small, irrelevant town happened to be a short drive from the many thousands of workers building the dam eager to gamble away their earnings. It was one of the early boons of the town and sheltered it from the Great Depression.

  • Las Vegas Development: The Dam Helped Las Vegas Get Off Its Feet And Grow Into Sin City
  • Las Vegas Population: In the 1930s Around 5,000

Also servicing the many workers in Vegas were all the bars and brothels that sprang up in the town - and so Sin City started its meteoric rise (until 1933 was the Prohibition and so drinking was illegal).

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Visiting The Hoover Dam

Today the Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction and a great outing for those visiting Las Vegas (it is only around 30 miles out of Las Vegas).

  • Visitation: It Is the Most Visited Dam In The World (7 Million Tourists A Year According To The NPS)
  • Note: As At The Time Of Writing There Are No Powerplant or Dam Tours
  • Covid-19: As At The Time Of Writing The Visitor Center Is Open At 25% Capacity
  • Roadwork: From Sept 19 to January 31, The Hoover Dam Hours Are Shortened To From 5:00 am to 7:00 pm Due To Schedule Roadwork

Anyone can visit the Hoover Dam at any time - the road still runs along with it. But there are also tours of the Powerplant and of inside the Dam. Exhibit tickets are available but are on a first-come-first-served basis. The (under normal circumstances) tours are:

  • Guided Dam Tour: $30.00 Per Person, See Historic Tunnels, Rides The Original Elevator In The Dam, Walk Through Inspection Tunnels In The Center Of the Dam
  • Guided Powerplant Tours: $15.00 Per Person, Walk Through The Original Construction Tunnels, See 8 of the Commerical Generator In The Nevada Powerhouse
  • Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour: $10.00 Per Person, Walk Through Narrated Exhibits, Enjoy 360 Views From The Observation Deck