There is more to Las Vegas than gambling, drinking, shows (and show girls), and more gambling, and more drinking and more show girls.
Hoover Dam, previously called Boulder Dam, sits in the Black Canyon (part of the Colorado River) on the border of Arizona and Nevada. And it’s a major tourist attraction, with almost one million people visiting the site annually.
This feat of engineering was constructed in the Great Depression Era between 1931 and 1936. In the times before modern technology and workplace health and safety regulations, 112 people died constructing the concrete-arch gravity dam.
And perhaps the lack of regard for workplace safety contributed to the construction consortium handing over the project to the government two years ahead of schedule in March 1936.
The dam impounds Lake Mead, which is one of the largest reservoirs in the United States (and a magnificent view as you drive towards the dam from Las Vegas). The dam’s generators also provide public and private power in Nevada, Arizona, and California.
Hoover Dam is a vast sight. The sheer size of the construction is impressive. It sure makes Lyell Dam in Lithgow look piddly by comparison. The dark water flowing through it looks icy. I can’t help but morbidly think about what an awful death it would be if you fell over the edge.
The architecture of the dam was originally criticised for being too functional and not decorative enough, and a Los Angeles based architect, Kauffman, was brought on board to redesign the exterior.
This seems to have been a good move – the art deco style has maintained a distinguished, yet classy look over 80 years later. One of the more interesting exterior features of the dam created by Kauffman is the sculptured turrets and clock faces set for the times in Nevada and Arizona.
Kaufman also hired Allen True, a Denver artist who built Navajo and Pueblo (regional tribes) motifs into the decorations of the walls and floor. Working with the National Laboratory of Anthropology, True incorporated recreations of Native American imagery of the elements and local animals.
Oscar Hanson, a Norwegian-American sculptor, designed many of the dams’ sculptures, including the monument of dedication plaza in memory of the workers who died to construct the dam.
At the bottom of this monument is a terrazzo floor with a star map, intended to help future astronomers predict the exact moment when the dam was dedicated by President Roosevelt.
Our tour of Hoover Dam is just a general walk-about self tour. On this occasion, we didn’t get a chance to do the walking tour across the dam. My torn hamstring and tendonitis were not being kind to me the day we visited.
If you’re driving in a RV like we did, you need to have it inspected by security at the dam. Don’t panic, it’s not like getting stuck at Customs in LAX and feeling like the Catholics are right and you’ve truly hit purgatory. Security here are very polite and pleasant and just go about doing their job.
We’re already planning another trip back to Las Vegas so we can do the guided tour across the dam – despite our rather horrific last trip to Vegas involving having a huge amount of our belongings being stolen.
Have you been to Hoover Dam? Or have any other Las Vegas trips that involved something other than casinos, gambling and drinking?
Location: Hoover Dam has no physical address – kinda cool! So the best way to locate it is via the Getting There directions.
Getting There: 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on U.S. 93.
Opening Times: Open every day apart from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visitor centre is open 9:00AM to 6:00PM
Tours: 9:15 a.m. first tour, 5:15 p.m. last tour
General Tour Information:
– $11.00 (ages 17-61)
– $9.00 (62+, ages 4-16)
– $9.00 U.S Military (Active Duty)
– Free (in Uniform)
– Free (ages 0-3)
More Information on Powerplant Tour
Hoover Dam Tour:
– $30.00 (ages 8 and above)
* No children under age 8 permitted
More Information on Hoover Dam Tour
Open Daily: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Tickets: $8.00 Adults, Free 3 and under
*Tickets sold until 4:15 p.m.
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