Jan 15, 2013

The Hoover Dam

It's been a month and a half since our trip to Southern Nevada and I've been wanting to do a post on our visit to the Hoover Dam ever since. I started one post, but Blogger was giving me some formating issues so I had to abandon it.
The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel. I won't go into all the facts & figures here, but if you want you can give the Wikipedia article a read here.... The official visitors site for the Hoover Dam is here....  This picture looks across the face of the dam. See the three towers on the front? Well, actually there are four, but this shot only shows three.

Two of those towers house bathrooms, one for men and one for women. The dam was built in the '30s with an art deco style reflected throughout. To get to the bathrooms you have to go up a flight of stairs. These are the urinals in the men's room... They don't make 'em like this anymore.
The other two towers house the original ticket booths for the tours and elevators down into the dam. The ticket booths are all closed up now and I assumed the elevators were no longer used. But, at the conclusion of my tour, we exited out of one them. The doors were brass with the this great eagle design on them.

There are four ways to enjoy the dam. The first is completely free. You simply park in one of the free parking areas and spend as much time as you'd like walking along the dam. There is a large paid parking garage, but we skipped that and drove across the dam to some free lots.

If just walking on the dam isn't enough you can pay $8 to visit the newly built Visitor's Center. It has some great displays on the construction of the dam and all the benefits of the dam today for power generation, flood control & irrigation. Here's a tip... This place gets busy. And if you have to wait in line, a lot of that will be in the desert sun. So get there early. Most people visit the dam as part of a bus tour from Las Vegas. Those start showing up around 10am. We got there at about 9:15am and avoided the crowds and found a great parking spot in a free lot that filled up quickly after us.

If you are going to pay the $8, you may as spend a few more bucks and spend  $11 on the Power Plant Tour. After watching a short video, your group of 20 will load up in an elevator and travel to the base of the dam and walk down a rock tunnel to the penstock. (If you've seen National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, this is where Clark uses bubble gum to stop a leak.) The picture here show the 50 foot diameter diversion tunnel used when building the dam. It now houses the 30 diameter pipe where the Colorado River flows to the turbines. There's one tunnel on each side.

And these are the turbines on the Nevada side of the dam. I think there was seven turbines here and eight on the other side. The overhead crane that you see with the American flag is an original crane from the when the dam was built. I was amazed at how much stuff was still original. I guess back then they built things to last.

This is looking down onto the turbine rooms from the top of the dam. Although a big function of the dam is power generation, it's primary function is for flood control and irrigation for the region.

The original marble inlay on the floor in the turbine room. It's a mixture of art deco and southwest Native American style. Since completion, millions of people have walked on this floor and it still looks brand new.

At this point, people who had just paid for the Power Plant Tour headed back up in the elevator. The six of us that paid $30 for the full dam tour headed out with our guide. The aluminum doors and subway tile you see here is all original. The tunnels we traveled through were installed as the dam was built for inspections, but also for tours. They knew the dam would be a major attraction. At this point we are about half way up the inside of the dam.

For me, this next part was the highlight of the tour. We traveled down this narrow tunnel, about 6 foot in diameter...
And across this grate which covered an inspection hole that goes hundreds of feet straight down into the dam....

Our destination was this vent, one of four in the face of the dam. For most of the tour I was too fascinated by what I was seeing to remember to get good photos... But I found this YouTube link where someone took video of this part of the tour...

To get this shot, I stuck my camera out the vents and took a picture looking back up the dam. If you click on any of the pictures in this post you can see a larger version. We will eventually come out of an elevator into that tower you see directly above me.

After being at the front of the dam, we walked back through several tunnels to the back side of the dam. This stairway goes up and down for hundreds of feet and is still used today for inspecting the dam.

This shot is looking straight down the face of the dam. You can see the power plant buildings on either side.

Just down stream of the dam is the new bridge. The highway used to use the top of the dam to cross the river. After 9-11 this was a major security threat so the bridge was built to reroute the traffic.

On the back side of the dam is Lake Mead. There are four intake towers where the water flows into the pipes that takes it around the dam and through the turbines. The white marks on the rocks along shore show the high water mark of the lake. The year those marks were made the Rocky Mountains saw 200% of normal snow fall, making for much higher water levels when it melted that summer.

The state line between Arizona & Nevada runs through the middle of the dam. This puts the dam into two different time zones. There's clocks on the intake towers, showing Arizona time on one, and Pacific Time on the other.

Another example of the art deco theme... These winged figures sit on each side of a tall flag pole that is a monument to the men who worked to make the dam happen. It was an enormous construction project and an engineering marvel.

 Also highlighting the art deco theme is this marble inlay near the base of the flag pole.

Visiting the dam was incredible. I've only included a small portion of the pictures we took and there was a lot we didn't get pictures of. We spent about 2 1/2 hours here and probably could've spent longer. If you ever go: get there early in the day, don't pay to park and fork out the $30 for the full tour. You won't regret it.

After we left the dam, we traveled north along Lake Mead to the Valley of Fire and you can see that post here...  And here's a map link of our route...


tbbotts said...

Wow Todd- that was fantastic! I've never been there,but now I think I should try to make it there. Thanks so much for sharing those pictures, they were awsome. I says a lot about the men who had the vision and the guts to do what they did. I hope that we return to that era of pride in our work again soon.

Anonymous said...

Great post Todd, very helpful, thanks very much. I am now very confident that my husband will love his tour of the dam.Cheers, Deb

Brad said...

FYI, it looks like the prices of $8, $11, and $30 are now $10, $15, and $30.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a GREAT synopsis. I have been to the dam numerous times. I never tire of seeing the engineering marvel that it is.

I am going back this coming week. i want to see the new road. The last time I went i was on a motorcycle. We were searched before we could proceed across the dam.

Thank you again. Tim