Hoover Dam has been holding back Lake Mead since 1935 and, according to a tour guide at the dam, is the only major project of its kind to pay back the U.S. government for its expense. Ironically, the electrical power generation was added on – the dam’s primary purpose is to provide water for the surrounding states.
Going to the dam is a strange experience in some ways. First, the dam looks so, well, industrial when you first see it from the Arizona side.
Then there are the movie flashbacks. The first Transformers movie was partly shot in and around the dam, as a recent example. “In?” Yup. Inside the dam. There are tours that will take you through the dam and show you the great pipes that feed the turbines and then show you the top of the turbines. If you watch the movie you can see the heroes running past them.
It’s really hard to get the scale of this monster and then keep hold of it. The dam rises 766.4’ from its bedrock base to the top of the towers. It weighs 6.6 million tons.
There’s a very nice parking garage, a couple okay places to eat, and a good visitor’s center. And more than one gift shop. It’s friendly that way.
One of the biggest developments is the change to the roads around the dam. The traffic across the top of the dam has to yield to the people using the crosswalks around the dam and therefore comes to a crawl if not a halt. That’s no longer the problem that it used to be because the traffic going to and from Las Vegas along US-93 has a brand new bridge to drive across. The old road is blocked off at that time so the only entrance to the dam area is from the Nevada side.
This is the way the bridge looked the first time we saw it:
When we returned, the arches were nearly complete, but the bridge decking was still to come.
Now the bypass is open and you can walk out to the middle of that bridge to see the dam and lake from a whole new perspective: 950′ above the Colorado River!
I wrote a blog post about our last trip up there with details on parking and such: