Las Vegas is full of glitz and fame, awash with lights, dazzle and celebrities but one of the most amazing sights is 30 miles east. The Hoover Dam, originally called Boulder Dam, straddles the Nevada/Arizona border. It created the largest USA recreational area, Lake Mead and allowed regulation of the wild Colorado River. Without a doubt, it is a spectacular engineering achievement – built during the recovery from the Great Depression from 1931-34 although planning for it began more than a decade earlier. Named for former President Hoover, a strong supporter of the project as Secretary of Commerce before his presidency.
Young and old men from around the country flocked to Boulder City to play a part in this remarkable project. Earning at the beginning as little as $4.00 a week they worked in shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week. The project was completed two years ahead of schedule and under budget – in itself an amazing feat. The statue below is a tribute those those courageous workers and their families. In the background is the largest crane ever constructed to facilitate building – it is still in use today.
Our tour included the Power Plant and the interior of the Dam itself – it was a delicious behind the scenes view of this monument to American ingenuity. Since 9/11 2001 the tour has shrunk out of safety concerns, but our tour guides were terrific and imparted interesting facts and stories. We ascended over 750 feet inside the Dam after being deep in the power plant on the Nevada side with its nine giant turbines generating clean hydroelectric power for many southwestern states. Every seven seconds enough power is produced to light 10,000 light bulbs. The simplicity of its production is explained beautifully for children and adults with hands on opportunities and excellent diagrams.
Our trip inside offered a view out one of the ventilation tunnels as well as a walk along several Art Deco embellished corridors. The Dam is decorated with numerous Art Deco elements all added to encouraged tourists and add to their enjoyment. The winged statues on the Nevada side are large examples as are the cap structures on the Dam's top level. Inside the floors were embellished with Art Deco tiles and some doors with engraved copper.
Our tour guide explained the building process and demonstrated how each concrete filled area was marked and identified for future monitoring. Tours are offered for a reasonable fee by the Bureau of Reclamation – the government agency charged with handling water resources and distribution. Is project helped end years of unrestricted flooding and land damage, created an enormous recreation area in the desert as well as producing electricity without pollution for millions. If you travel to the Southwest You cannot miss this Grand Dame of Dams – after visiting about a dozen during our trip here, she is truly the most extraordinary!