The Hoover Dam: Everything You Need to Know
Did you know that the United States is home to over 92,000 dams? These structures generate energy and help control, store, and supply water. They also create artificial lakes called reservoirs that provide water for domestic use.
The Hoover Dam, in turn, is one of the country’s highest dams, standing 726 feet tall. It’s the second-tallest dam in the U.S., just a mere 44.5 feet shorter than California’s 770.5-foot Oroville Dam. It contains an astonishing 4.4 million cubic yards of concrete.
No trip to Arizona or Nevada is complete without a Hoover Dam tour.
To that end, we created this guide on the most fascinating and must-know facts about the Hoover Dam. Read on to discover its history, why you should visit it, and what to bring during your trip.
The Tamer of the Colorado River
The Hoover Dam, which is in the Colorado River’s Black Canyon, sits between Arizona and Nevada.
Before the dam existed, the Colorado River flooded areas of Arizona and California. It has always been mighty and violent, considering how it created the Grand Canyon. It was also these floods that gave birth to the Salton Sea.
Unfortunately, those floods also affected surrounding homes and farms, forcing people to evacuate. That triggered government officials to think of and create a flood prevention plan.
In 1918, government engineer Arthur Davis proposed building a dam to tame the river. He named it the Boulder Canyon Project.
It took ten years for the project to receive approval. It was only in December 1928 that then-President Coolidge authorized it.
From 1930 to 1936, over 21,000 workers tolled hard to finish the Hoover Dam’s construction. Upon completion, the structure was (and still is) able to tame the once-wild Colorado River.
A National Historic Landmark
The Hoover Dam contributed to the development of several cities. That includes Las Vegas, NV, Phoenix, AZ, and Los Angeles, California.
The dam’s turbines can generate so much hydroelectricity that it can power 1.3 million homes. The water it supplies also irrigates millions of acres.
So, it’s no wonder the Hoover Dam is one of the country’s National Historic Landmarks. It’s also among America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.
Incredible Photos Don’t Do It Justice
Even the most amazing photos of the Hoover Dam can’t capture its majesty because, one, it towers 726 feet high. Two, it’s a whopping 1,244 feet long.
That’s enough reason to take a trip or a tour of the Hoover Dam, as you can only appreciate its magnificence in person.
Besides, visiting the Hoover Dam allows you to marvel at the Instagrammable Lake Mead. It’s the reservoir formed by the monolithic structure. You can enjoy breathtaking scenery, hiking trails, swimmable beaches, and picnic areas here.
A 45-Minute Drive From the Vegas Strip
If you’re in Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and take that 45-minute drive from the Strip to the Hoover Dam. It’s just an easy 30+ miles that will give you access to one of the greatest engineering wonders of the world. Plus, there are loads of free parking spots (both on the Arizona and Nevada sides).
Speaking of free, it’s free to visit the dam; you don’t have to pay to enter, walk, or drive across it. However, tours inside the dam and some parking areas cost extra.
Tours from the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Hoover Dam, cost between $10 and $30. The self-guided visitor center tour costs $10. The guided power plant tour sells for $15, while the guided dam tour costs $30.
The first two tours are available online; you can only buy the third on-site.
Numerous Hoover Dam Tours From Las Vegas
If you don’t want to drive, your best bet is to book one of the Hoover Dam tours from Vegas. However, be careful when you choose one, as some tours advertising a “stop” at the dam don’t stop there. Instead, they’d only take you to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Also called the Bridge Overlook, it is undoubtedly an incredible arch bridge. It affords pretty views of the second-tallest dam in the U.S., but it isn’t the Hoover Dam.
So when choosing a tour, check that a drive and a walk across the Hoover Dam are part of the package. You can also book one where you can visit the inside of the dam’s powerplant and visitor’s center.
If that’s not enough excitement for you, book a Vegas tour that includes a trip to the Grand Canyon West. Better yet, go on a full-day tour of the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon West, and the Seven Magic Mountains.
Concrete, comprised of cement, aggregates, and water, can get very hot under the sun. That’s why dams, including the Hoover Dam, can get pretty toasty, especially in summer. Don’t forget that the second-tallest dam itself sits near the desert.
So, it’s no wonder that Hoover Dam temperatures can surge to over 100° F in spring and summer. For the same reason, please wear loose and comfortable sun-protective clothing. Don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen and wear UV-protective sunglasses.
Bring and drink plenty of water, too, to avoid dehydration. If you’re bringing a service animal, please take them to the dam with you and don’t leave them in your car. The dam permits service animals but not pets.
If you’re going on a tour, select one that arrives at the dam early, between 9 and 10 AM. Alternatively, you can get a later one, preferably from 4 PM onwards. At these times, the temperatures can be more tolerable and tend to have fewer visitors.
Visit the Great Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is such an engineering masterpiece that 7 million people visit it yearly. It’s also a testament to how hard-working Americans are. Besides, it’s less than an hour away from the Vegas Strip, and everyone, from kids to adults, will surely love it.
All that should be enough to prompt you to take a trip to this monolithic structure yourself.
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