The Hoover Dam is one of the country’s most stunning feats of engineering. In 1931 construction began, and was completed two years ahead of schedule in 1936 despite its remote location. Standing proudly on the Colorado River, and on the boundary of Nevada and Arizona, not only is the dam essential in a practical sense, it is also a tourist attraction, receiving more than seven million visitors each year.
When the project to build the Hoover Dam was first suggested, many people believed it would be too great a challenge and was downright foolhardy. It took the skill and knowledge of more than two hundred engineers and seven thousand laborers to create this modern wonder. When we consider the harsh conditions and the obvious dangers that needed to be overcome, the fact that it was finished ahead of schedule is an amazing achievement.
Why Was Hoover Dam Built?
There were a number of reasons behind the building of this mega-dam. The area downstream was prone to flooding so controlling the Colorado River as it snaked its way to the Gulf of California was a priority. As the western states of California and Arizona were extremely arid, it was also a means of harnessing water for irrigation purposes. Another reason was the growing demand for cheap energy. Today, the hydroelectric power of Hoover Dam is still used to keep the lights shining in many of America’s large southwestern cities.
When we take a look at the dam’s specifications, the feat of engineering becomes even more impressive. It stands 726 feet tall, and is 1244 feet long. The top of the dam has a thickness of 45 feet, while at the base it is a whopping 660 feet. In total there is approximately 4.5 million cubic yards of concrete within the dam itself – enough to build a four-foot-wide sidewalk all the way around the earth’s equator.
The Rise of Lake Mead
The area around the Hoover Dam is already incredibly scenic, but thanks to the formation of Lake Mead, the beauty of the locality has grown further. Lake Mead was created when the dam was finished and is now a wonderful recreation spot. This reservoir offers the opportunity for sailing, boating and fishing at any time of the year.
It should come as no surprise to discover that more than ten million visitors travel to Lake Mead annually. The reservoir has more than five hundred miles of shoreline and an area of nearly two hundred and fifty square miles. To put this into perspective, the lake is double the size of Rhode Island.
What If Hoover Dam Broke?
If you are wondering how Hoover Dam can withstand the immense pressure created by Lake Mead, the answer lies in the walls of the Black Canyon. These massive rock cliffs help in counteracting the pressure placed on the curved walls of the dam. It has been suggested that the dam’s wall will not need changing for at least another century.
Hoover Dam Tours
If planning a trip to Lake Mead or Hoover Dam, it can be worth taking an organized tour. Here are three that I recommend:
Go here for a complete list of Grand Canyon tours
Hoover Dam is indeed one of the most miraculous structures you’ll ever see. Making it even better is the new Hoover Dam Bridge, which was completed in late 2010 and ranks as the highest and longest arched concrete bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Now imagine flying over that!
Make it a grand day!
More chopper tours? Go here for a complete list of Grand Canyon helicopter rides from Vegas.