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12.01.2008 - 48 comments 

This was one of those tours that I really was not all that wild about doing, but I could not have been more wrong about this dam. From the minute we pulled into the parking lot and got our first real look at the dam, boy was it impressive! It was really a lot bigger than it looked as we were flying into Las Vegas. But if you get to Las Vegas sometime, it is worth the drive out to Bolder City to just see it, if for nothing else.

We found out all sorts of things about the dam and its history. Like that fact that in 1930, construction began on the Hoover Dam and it was the largest dam of its kind at the time. Despite its remote location and harsh working conditions, it was completed in less than five years. That was actually two years ahead of schedule and unlike most government projects it was well under budget too.

Of course the dam is named after America's 31st president, Herbert Hoover, who also played an extremely large role in bringing the nearby states into agreement about water allocations, thus settling an ongoing 25-year controversy. The dam has been called Boulder Canyon Dam as well as Boulder Dam, but Hoover Dam was reinstated as the official name by Congress in 1947*.

As a National Historic Landmark, Hoover Dam is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere, standing at more than 725 feet above the Colorado River. With 17 generators producing 4 billion kilowatts of electricity a year, it also is one of the country's largest hydroelectric power facilities. Operation and maintenance of the facility are solely supported by revenue from power sales.

Two tours of the dam are available and well worth the time and money spent. For $11 per person (and discounts were available for children, seniors and active military) is the actual Hoover Dam Power Plant Tour. This tour is broken up into several components at numerous locations. The unique tour format allows guests to pick and choose which locations they want to see and the complete tour generally lasts about two hours.

The Hoover Dam Power Plant Tour begins like a lot of the tours we’ve been on, with a brief video presentation depicting the history of Hoover Dam and how it came to be. Afterwards, a guide will escorted us to an elevator for a 500-foot descent to get an up-close look at the power plant generators housed at the base of the dam. The dam is 726.4 feet high, 1,244 feet across at the top, it is 660 feet thick at the base and 45 feet thick at the top.

It weighs 6.6 million tons and can store up 2 years 'average' flow from the Colorado River. Total storage capacity can be measured in 30,500,000 acre feet and the surface area of Lake Mead is 146,000 acres, the maximum water surface elevation of Lake Mead is 1229 FT, the maximum depth of Lake Mead is 590 FT, the length of Lake Mead is 115 miles.

One of the shots I have here (below) was of two of the "Winged Figures of the Republic" by Oskar J.W. Hansen, which is part of the monument of dedication on the Nevada side of the dam. I just thought that it was very cool and in fact it reminded me of something that could have been built by the same architects of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It also had many signs and symbols of the marble slabs in front of the Winged Figures of the Republic. It was really one of my favorite parts of the dam area.The dam has a power generating capacity of 2.8 million kilowatts, and it cost ONLY $49,000,000 to build Hoover Dam, $165,000,000 to complete the Boulder Canyon Project which includes the Imperial Dam, Hoover Dam and the American Canal. If you look at it closely, see if you don't fell the way I did upon viewing it?

The dam contains about 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete. There are 96,000,000 pounds of steel and metalwork used by the dam - but none of it is actually IN the dam. In spite of some rumors to the opposite, NO ONE IS BURIED IN THE DAM (because Jimmy Hoffa went missing long after the dam was completed)! About 16,000 men and women worked on the project and about 3,500 people were employed at any specific time. Officially, there were 96 'industrial' fatalities during the construction of Hoover Dam.

Guests on the dam tour can also see the original diversion tunnels and stand atop a giant, 30-foot pipe where they can feel the rumble of Colorado River water racing through it. It was so busy around the dam with all of the cars and all of the tourists that it is no wonder that Project Management Team (PMT) was developed to oversee the design and construction of the project. The PMT has representation from each of the major project stakeholders including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the States of Arizona and Nevada, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and the National Park Service (NPS). Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) will act in the lead management role for all elements of project procurement, design and construction.

Construction of the Colorado River Bridge is advancing with construction of the 1,060 foot twin-rib concrete arch. The Colorado River Bridge is the central portion of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. Construction on the nearly 2,000 foot long bridge began in late January 2005 and the completion of the entire Hoover Dam Bypass Project is expected in June 2010. When completed, this signature bridge will span the Black Canyon (about 1,600 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River. It was easy to see where the work was going on there, but I still wasn’t too sure that anything was going to hurry traffic along in this area unless they make the new bridge a NON-tourist route. But then, I could be wrong!

"This morning I came, I saw, and I was conquered, as everyone would be who sees for the first time this great feat of mankind. . . .Ten years ago the place where we gathered was an un-peopled, forbidding desert. In the bottom of the gloomy canyon whose precipitous walls rose to height of more than a thousand feet, flowed a turbulent, dangerous river. . . . The site of Boulder City was a cactus-covered waste. And the transformation wrought here in these years is a twentieth century marvel." ~ From a Speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Dedication of Boulder (Hoover) Dam, September 30, 1935

*P.S. For those who care about this historical detail, on May 8, 1933, Harold Ickes, Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior, decided that the name of the dam should be 'Boulder Dam', its original name. The reason for this was no doubt political. Then on April 30, 1947, the resolution renaming the dam back to Hoover Dam was passed by congress and signed by President Harry S. Truman.