A Dam Good Look At History
I know a visit to a dam might not be the first thing on your mind when you come to an exciting, glamorous city like Las Vegas. But it should be. Hoover Dam is the most famous dam in the world. Located just 30 miles from Las Vegas, it was built in 1935 and still remains one of the greatest public works projects ever created.
Now usually I’m not all that interested in civil engineering and I’ve never had a mind for science. But seeing Hoover Dam was an eye-opening and at times jaw-dropping experience—one that made me take a moment to reflect on the ingenuity and fortitude of mankind.
When I visited, I took the 35-minute guided tour that allowed me to go into the dam. I was fascinated looking at the old photographs and watching the film about the people who built Hoover Dam. It’s astonishing to imagine some of the tasks that were part of this colossal construction effort. I didn’t know tunnels were dug on both sides of Black Canyon to literally move the raging Colorado River so the dam’s foundation could be laid. Not only that, but I was amazed by the manufacturing and cooling processes for the massive amounts of concrete needed to make the blocks that would comprise the dam.
Today, Hoover Dam not only forms a reservoir of water for drinking and irrigation, but it also supplies electricity. As part of the tour, I got to take the elevator down into the dam’s heart to see where and how this electricity is generated. That was a highlight to me—getting to stand on the platform overlooking the turbine hall, which is cavernous. It’s so big you can barely see the other end of the room.
Another highlight that I should mention was a simple one. I enjoyed strolling across the top of the dam. It’s such a great sight from above. While standing there, you can see all the water being held back and the huge intake towers. One funny thing is the change in time zones as you walk from one side of the dam to the other. In fact, there are large clocks on two of the intake towers to let you know that you are on Pacific Standard Time on the Nevada side of the dam and Mountain Standard Time on the Arizona side. The state line actually runs right through the center of the dam.
There are plenty of other great views from points all around Hoover Dam. I also enjoyed the artwork designed to honor its builders. There are two beautiful winged sculptures near a flagpole and a bronze statue of a high scaler near the café. I also spotted the grave of a dog that was a beloved pal to the workers during the dam’s construction. All of these tributes really brought that period in history alive for me.
It’s important to remember the building of Hoover Dam, which started during the Great Depression, revived this area economically—especially the city of Las Vegas. Plus, its construction was a real feat considering the place—a barren, unforgiving desert. So believe me when I say that in this day and age, Hoover Dam is still a marvel and one that you should not miss!
Written by Travel Gal, Renee Libutti