Hoover Dam was an immense construction project that was initiated to control damage caused by the annual flooding of the Colorado River in the areas along the lower Colorado where it flowed between Arizona and Nevada.
Named for President Herbert Hoover who was most influential in endorsing the Dam’s construction, Hoover Dam was built in the Black Canyon area of the Colorado, spanning the Arizona and Nevada state borders.
Located some 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, construction of one of the largest public works projects in the history of the United States began in 1931. Furnishing desperately needed work to thousands, the dam was completed in 1935, more than two years ahead of schedule.
The huge curving structure known as Hoover Dam is the second highest dam of its kind in the United States, surpassed in height only by the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1981, Hoover Dam was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
A marvel of engineering – and chosen by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven modern engineering wonders of the country – the Dam is a gigantic wall of concrete 726 feet in height and 660 feet thick at its base. Entering through the visitors center, tourists can take a 40 minute guided tour of the dam and the cavernous generating rooms deep inside the structure, where seventeen 70 foot tall generators stand, turning furiously in the 22,000 gallon-per-second rush of water introduced through 30 foot wide pipes, providing more than half of Southern California’s power to some 13 million power consumers.
Visitors can walk across the dam and view the huge 50 foot in diameter spillway channel on the Arizona side, which is designed to take excess water in the event of a flooding condition due to the time to time record flows along the Colorado River. Until the building of the dam, the Colorado River – running from the Rockies to the Gulf of California – some 1400 miles in overall length, operated on its own terms. When swollen with melted snow the river flooded farmland, then dwindled to a mere trickle in the late summer. It needed taming.
The building of Hoover Dam was hugely expensive – costing $165 million in depression-era dollars (approximately $2.2 billion in today’s money) – labor intensive and extremely hazardous, costing over 100 workers their lives.
The dam’s construction created Lake Mead, one of the most popular and frequently visited National Park areas in the country. The dam alone attracts more than a million visitors annually, and about 20,000 cars drive across its top daily. Traffic is slowed, however, by intense security designed to prevent acts of terrorism against this vitally important facility. All heavy and commercial trucks are prohibited, and must take the longer route to reach Arizona or Nevada destinations.
The Dam is open to visitors every day from 9am to 5pm all year long, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Discovery Tour is an interesting and informative way to tour the Dam. The tour guides visitors through various exhibits, the inner workings of the Dam, a short film presentation and a visit to the observation deck for panoramic views of the area.
Discovery Tour Admission Fees:
- Adults – (17 to 61) $11.00
- Seniors – (62+) $ 9.00
- Juniors – ( 7 to 16) $6.00
- Military and dependents $9.00
- Children – (up to age 6) Free
- Parking fee for all visitors to the dam is $7.00 per vehicle