On Friday morning we took the Jeep for the short ride to the Hoover Dam to explore this engineering marvel. We had checked in with our friends after they arrived in Salt Lake City and learned that they had already visited this place so it seemed like a good way for us to spend the day while they began their drive from Utah.
The Hoover Dam, originally known as the Boulder Dam until 1947 when a joint resolution by Congress renamed it, was built to irrigate and provide hydroelectric power to the states of California and Arizona as well as to control seasonal flooding of the Colorado River, making settlement in the arid Southwest possible. It was built in the Black Canyon, spanning the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. It is 726.4 feet tall from the foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the Dam. The towers and ornaments on the parapet are an additional 40 feet tall. This concrete arch-gravity type dam weighs 6.6 million tons and supports a maximum water pressure at the base of the dam of 45,000 pounds per square inch. There are 4.36 million cubic yards of concrete in this structure and its appurtenant works, enough to pave a 16’ wide highway from San Francisco to New York City. A total of 21,000 men worked on the project with an daily average of 3,500 and a maximum of 5,218. Before work on the actual dam could begin, Boulder City had to be built to house government and contractor employees, seven miles of highway had to be constructed between Boulder City and the dam site, construction of 22.7 miles of railroad from the Union Pacific main line in Las Vegas to Boulder City and an additional ten miles from Boulder City to the dam site and construction of a 222-mile-long power transmission line from San Bernadino, CA to the dam site to supply energy for construction.
We took the Power Plant tour while we were there. Very interesting. A 70-second elevator ride brought us 530’ down through the rock wall of Black Canyon to a tunnel drilled in the 1930s. A short walk through this tunnel brought us to the Penstock Viewing Platform which is atop one of the four 30’ diameter pipes that can transport close to 90,000 gallons of water per second from Lake Mead to the hydroelectric generators. Back through the tunnel to the elevator for a quick ride up to the Nevada power plant balcony for a panoramic view of the 650’ long Nevada wing and its eight huge generators. This place is absolutely spotless. These generators, when combined with the nine in the Arizona wing (side of the river) produce, on average, about four billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power annually for use in Nevada, Arizona and California. That is enough to serve 1.3 million people.
Once the tour was over, we took some pics from the observation decks and walked from Nevada to Arizona while crossing the dam and exploring the entrance to the spillways and the Penstocks (towers built into the lake that feed water from below the surface to the generators). Then, an outrageously expensive and not-so-good lunch from the tourist-trap restaurant near the visitors center and we were on our way.
But, not so fast, there was one last place to check out. We wanted to walk across the Pat Tillman Bridge…one of (if not the best) vantage points for the Hoover Dam.
Great day, amazing place. Highly recommend it!