Hoover Dam – An American Marvel

by D.J. Wilson

Want to be impressed by an attraction twice the height of the Statue of Liberty whose construction led to creation of one of the largest man-made lakes in the world?  You’ll love the Hoover Dam, situated 35 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Hoover Dam is considered one of the greatest engineering marvels in the world and is bound to leave visitors awe-struck.    Its 17 amazing generators produce 4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, providing electricity for three states.  If you’re headed to Las Vegas, it’s a must see location, perfect for a group outing.  Tour the inside and outside of the dam’s power plant and enjoy the breathtaking views from the top.

Hoover Dam attracts more than a million visitors per year and was named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century.  Located on the border between Arizona and Nevada, this National Historic Landmark spans the mighty Colorado River in Black Canyon.  The dam was originally called Boulder Dam, named after a first proposed site location.  While serving as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact which made building of the dam possible.   A name change was suggested, from Boulder Dam to Hoover Dam, to bolster Hoover’s image.  It was an unpopular idea at the time.  In 1947, a resolution to rename the dam in honor of our 31st President was passed by congress and signed into law by President, Harry S. Truman.

The impressive Hoover Dam was created to prevent flooding and to provide irrigation and hydroelectric power to arid regions.  Built from 1931 to 1935, its design is concrete arch-gravity construction. At an amazing 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long, the structure required more than 5 million barrels of concrete to build. More than 5,500,000 cubic yards of material were excavated and roughly 45,000,000 pounds of reinforcement steel were used in its construction. Hoover Dam was an enormous undertaking, making it the largest building project of the federal government up to that time in history at a cost of $49 million.  Prospective workers flocked the area to seek jobs which they had lost during the Great Depression.  Employing over 21,000 men over its construction period, usually less than 5,000 workers at any one time, the population in and around the area grew tremendously.  Blistering temperatures, soaring above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, made the project a difficult feat.  Sadly, over 100 workers lost their lives during the massive project due to the risks involved.

Today, Hoover Dam is a beloved National Landmark which leaves an unforgettable impression on visitors.  Enjoyment of the structural brilliance can be experienced by taking tours of the plant and dam.  Expect fees for parking and touring.  Guests may choose which locations they wish to see and watch a brief show depicting the history of the Hoover Dam.  Visitors board an elevator for a 500-foot descent to see the power plant generators at the base of the dam.  The observation deck on top provides panoramic views of the Colorado River and man-made Lake Mead.  Visitors have unique opportunities to explore inspection tunnels and peer out of vents to the river below.  History buffs will enjoy seeing the seepage gallery and set of antique stairs. For curious minds, there are many astounding facts to learn about its unique construction through various presentations and exhibits.  The dam’s four towers, spillways and power plants reflect elegant Art Deco designs and make the trip truly unique.

Hoover Dam stands as evidence of man’s desire to adeptly modify the environment for his own benefit, no matter how monumental the task.  Those who visit Hoover Dam admire the workmanship and expertise it took to bring the colossal project to fruition.  At its dedication ceremony, Franklin D. Roosevelt called the dam “an engineering victory of the first order” and “another great achievement of American resourcefulness, skill and determination.”


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