One fall we took a trip to the Southwest and after our trip to the Grand Canyon, we made a stop at the Hoover Dam. So glad that we did!! For those of you that are a little far from the history books, let’s start with a little history before we talk about why to visit!
What is the Hoover Dam?
As the Southwest was developing at the turn of the century, farmers were looking to divert the raging Colorado River into smaller canals so that budding communities could continue to develop. In 1905, the Colorado River broke through the canals and something had to be done to tame the Colorado River.
The Bureau of Reclamation devised a plan to build a dam in Black Canyon which is located on the Arizona-Nevada border. The dam would control flooding and would provide hydroelectric power that would be sold to pay for the cost of the dam. The water would eventually be divided among six states (Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California).
Laborers in the Great Depression flocked to Las Vegas for a chance to work on the dam, Eventually, a town called Boulder City was born 6 miles away for all the workers. The first step was to divert the Colorado River so the construction on the dam could begin. The canyon was blasted to make 4 diversion tunnels which was 140 degrees in the heat. Second, the walls of the canyon were cleared from debris that would hold the dam. The cement was mixed and hoisted on cables across the dam row by row. The heat has to be offset by the cooling concrete so 600,000 pipes were embedded in the concrete to circulate water to cool the cement. On September 30, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Hoover Dam.
- 5 million barrels of cement
- 45 million pounds of reinforced steel
- 6.6 million tons of concrete that could pave a road from San Francisco to New York City.
- 21,000 workers on the project
The project made the largest man-made reservoir (at the time) which is Lake Mead. The project irrigates via Lake Mead 2 million acres and it turbines generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes. It wasn’t until 1985 that Hoover Dam was designated a National Historic Landmark and one of seven modern America’s Civil Engineering Wonders in 1994. Each year, Lake Mead draws 7 million visitors and the Hoover Dam draws 10 million visitors.
Facts About Hoover Dam (You Might Not Know)
- The name was a controversy-Originally was going to be at Boulder Dam and then moved to Black Canyon. In 1930, at a ceremony to start the construction, it was announced that it would be called Hoover Dam after President Herbert Hoover who was inaugurated in 1929. Many people opposed it being named the Hoover Dam as they believed President Hoover was to blame for the Great Depression. It wasn’t until 1947 when President Truman signed a proclamation to change the name to the Hoover Dam.
- An entire city was built-Boulder City, Nevada was built to house 5,000 workers and eventually a hotel was built for dignitaries that came to visit.
- Hoover Dam created America’s largest reservoir-Lake Mead was formed by damning the Colorado River and flooding the town of St. Thomas, Nevada. As the water levels decreases, remnants of the town can be seen.
- No one was buried alive in the concrete-21,000 men worked on the project with an average of 3,500/day and were paid an hourly rate between $.50 and $1.25 depending on what section was being worked on.
- It was once the tallest dam at 726 feet. It has since been surpassed by a dam in California that is 770 feet.
- During World War II, the dam was the target of a German bomb plot. In 1939, U.S. officials uncovered a plot by German agents to plant bombs in the intake towers to sabotage power supply to Southern California’s aviation manufacturing industry. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hoover Dam was closed to the public until the end of the war.
What to do at the Hoover Dam??
- Kayak the Hoover Dam.
- Power Plant Tour-We took this tour which has an introductory video of Hoover Dam followed by a 30 minute walking tour on an observation deck and finishes up with the Nevada wing which is the public area of the Power Plant.
- Guided Dam Tour-this starts with a hour long guided walking tour to an observation platform that overlooks the Power Plant. You go through the Power Plant and stop at the inspection station.
- Check out Lake Mead-kayaking, fishing, boating, and swimming are available. Hiking and camping are allowed along the perimeter.
- Cross the Memorial Bridge- constructed in 2010 and dedicated to Mike O’Callahan and Pat Tillman.
- Visit Boulder Dam Hotel and Boulder City.
A great place to check out!! Hoover Dam and Lake Mead provide the scenery for some great photo shots. Check these out: