The Hoover Dam, also known as the Boulder Dam, is a huge, concrete masterpiece. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, the large structure is entirely human-made and serves many useful purposes. The plant part of the dam is impressive as well, and there are talks and tours available to see the wonder. The dam impounds the giant Lake Mead on the Arizona and Nevada border. The area is mountainous and has desert-like vegetation including low shrubs. The lake seemingly appears out of nowhere, with the mountain surrounding it in the high desert area. The dam is also known as Boulder dam because it is located close to Boulder City, Nevada. The name “Hoover” came from one of our former presidents, President Herbert Hoover because of his oversight of the complicated construction of the dam. The dam draws over a million people a year and is considered a significant and impressive tourist attraction.
What does the Hoover Dam do?
The massive concrete masterpiece was created in the 1930s. It was, at the time, considered to be one of the largest human-made structures in the world. The Colorado River which is controlled by the dam seasonally floods. Settlers’ lands, homes, and fields were ruined because of the flooding every year. The dam was constructed in hopes of controlling the flooding and to harness the opportunity in hydroelectric power, to help irrigate and provide this power to the growing states of California and Arizona.
How was it built?
The construction of the dam was no small undertaking. The Colorado River had to be diverted so the dam could be built and was done so by using a series of tunnels. Over 20,000 workers labored on the project, and over 100 people died. 200 engineers helped in the design and execution of the enormous dam which still stands proudly today. Construction included that of the actual dam, power plant, and appurtenant works. For five years the construction continued until it was completed. The dam is considered an “arch-gravity type” of the dam and used over 4 million cubic yards of concrete used. It is over 700 feet tall from the foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam. The dam was built using vertical columns of blocks. Think of it like a Lego set, stacking the blocks and putting them together like a puzzle. The columns varied in sizes from 60 square feet to 25 square feet. Concrete was poured into the columns, and then a type of “grout” was used to join all the blocks together to make one stable structure.
Before the Dam Could Be Built
As mentioned before, this was no small project. Before the dam could be built, several things had to happen first. First, the nearby Boulder City had to be constructed so the workers and employees could have a place to live and be housed. Next, a road was needed to get to the construction site of the dam. A 7-mile, 22-foot-wide paved road was made from Boulder City to the dam site. A 222-mile-long power transmission line was needed from California to the dam site for the energy required for construction. Over 20 miles of railroad from the Union Pacific main track in Las Vegas had to be made to reach Boulder city and then another additional 10 miles to the construction site for supplies, materials, and people. All this was needed before construction could even begin on the dam!
Tour the Dam and Power Plant
The dam itself is impressive and leaves visitors standing there staring at it in awe. There are viewpoints from the top, looking down over the rest of the creation and the water that it stops. There are a visitor center, a power plant tour and a dam tour for visitors to consider. The power plant tour takes you down an elevator for over 500 feet below the surface to see the plant below. See the 30-foot-diameter pipes that transport water, the generators, viewing decks, exhibits, the power plant balcony and much more on this tour. The Hoover dam tour will let guests see lesser known parts of the dam. It is a one-hour guided tour, and visitors get to look at the power plant, the visitors center, the passageways beneath the surface and into the dam itself. Be prepared for over a mile of walking on the massive structure during your one-hour tour.
Paddle Craft and Rafting Tours
Located just below the dam is a launch area where canoes, kayaks, or rafts can be launched for a trip down the Colorado River. There is also a concessionaire that provides raft trips down the river if you don’t have your form of boat or raft. There are rentals and shuttle services available by different companies. This is a fun way to see the sites and enjoy the water. Some parts of the water have swifter movement, so use caution. There are no trees, just one small palm tree you might see a few hundred yards below the Goldstrike Canyon. You might also see a large ringbolt on a rock about 250 yards above the rapids at what is known as the Ringbolt Rapids. The ring was used to winch steamboats through the rapids in the late 1800s. There is also a natural stone arch, an old gauging station used during the construction of the dam, a sandy beach and a cave that can be canoed into about 40 feet, wild burros, canyons, cliffs and a waterfall or two. Bring a group of friends or family and have some fun in the river.
An Amazing Feat
The Hoover Dam is considered an amazing feature, even to this day. Thousands of workers worked in dangerous conditions and hot and brutal summer heat to complete the massive concrete dam after five years of hard work. Men are known as “high scalers” dangled from the ends of their ropes down into the canyon to remove loose rocks and boulders that might cause harm or death to those below. Some swung themselves and supplies back and forth across the canyon, helping with construction needs. Before the dam could even be built, a whole city had to be created, not to mention hundreds of miles of energy from California, a road, and even a railroad to get this project started. Today, millions of people still visit the dam, because it is so huge and impressive. Standing on the top and looking down, the view is staggering, and one can only imagine being a construction worker during that time. Stop and see this fantastic human-made dam for yourself and enjoy the views from the top.