After a day in Las Vegas, we headed 40 minutes outside the strip to our first stop, the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Spanning across the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, this arch bridge measures 880 feet over the river, providing some of the best views of the Hoover Dam. A warning for anyone with a fear of heights, (which included Adam and his sister Ally) walking across this bridge may not be your your cup of tea—it is REALLY high!
I couldn't get enough, and particularly loved crossing the Nevada-Arizona state line half way across the bridge, while also straddling the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones. It was neat to think you're standing not only in two states at once, but also at two different times. The construction, innovation and overall design is a must-see to really appreciate the magnitude of the Hoover Dam, which was up next.
Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam continues to draw more than 1 million visitors a year. In 1930, construction began on the Hoover Dam, the largest of its kind at the time (and still the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere). Despite the remote location and harsh working conditions, it was completed in less than five years— two years ahead of ahead of schedule—and under budget (which I found most remarkable).
The dam is named after America's 31st president, Herbert Hoover, who played a large role in bringing the nearby states into agreement about water allocations, settling a 25-year controversy.
I had taken a helicopter tour over the Dam 10 years earlier during a trip to the Grand Canyon with my family, but was excited to tour the facilities and get an up-close view of it's enormity. After walking across the bridge and stopping for all the necessary photo ops, we hopped in line for the Power Plant tour, which came highly recommended by Adam's Dad—and it didn't disappoint!
The Hoover Dam Power Plant Tour begins with a brief video. It was fascinating to learn about the history, innovation and necessity behind the project. Afterwards, our 'dam' guide escorted his 'dam' tourists (as he endearingly called us) to an elevator for a 530-foot descent to the power plant generators, housed at the base of the dam.
We exited the elevator into one of the original diversion tunnels used in the 1930s and made our way atop a giant, 30-foot pipe where we felt the rumble of the Colorado River water racing beneath. From there, a quick elevator ride up to the Nevada power plant balcony took us to a panoramic view of the 650-foot-long Nevada wing of the power plant and eight of the dam's 17 huge generators.
Hoover Dam is a true testimony to our country's ingenuity and determination in the midst of adverse conditions. Built during the Depression; thousands of men and their families came to Black Canyon to tame the Colorado River.
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. —Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1935
It took less than five years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. Now, years later, Hoover Dam still stands as a world-renowned structure, and is certainly not to be missed.