Before visiting Hoover Dam on our Southwest Road Trip, Teddy and I watched a documentary on the building of it since we knew we wouldn’t have time to explore the Visitor Center on our trip. I’ll share a bit of what we learned as well as tips for visiting the area.
The dam is about 45 minutes south east of Las Vegas, 1.5 hours south of Valley of Fire State Park, and 3.5 hours south of Zion National Park.
The dam was built during the Great Depression in America. It’s location is in the Black Canyon and dams up the Colorado River. The purpose was help with flooding as well as to provide electric and water to growing cities in the Southwest, especially California. This was an enormous project, which required many workers. The nearby town of Boulder City was the town that housed about 5,000 workers for this project. Of those 5,000 112 died during the work on the dam.
The project began in 1931 and was finished in 1935. It was actually completed 2 years ahead of schedule and also came in under budget. The dam itself has more concrete than I can even imagine. At the top, the concrete is about 60 feet thick and at the bottom of it, it’s about 660 feet thick. Imagine two football fields in length and that’s how thick it is; it’s so thick the concrete hasn’t even fully dried in the bottom.
There were quite a few times during the project that the engineer, Franke Crowe, had to come up with a quick solution to a problem while building the dam. He used cable hoists to deliver equipment and supplies down to the construction site. He also built a cooling system in the concrete to carry away the heat as it dried. There were other innovations Crowe used during the building but I found these two the most interesting.
Hours & Admission
The dam is open 5 AM – 9 PM every day. To park at the garage at the Visitor Center is $10. This is the only fee you pay if you don’t plan to do a tour. Since we were there early in the morning before catching a flight home, we just walked around the top of the dam.
If you’d like to do a tour, they are about $30 per person. This includes a short video history, a 1 hour tour, and exhibits at the Visitor Center.
Tips for Visiting
- You will drive through a security checkpoint before even getting to the Dam or the parking garage.
- You can drive across the dam in a passenger car, but you have to turn around on the other side and come back across.
- There are no drones allowed at the dam.
- Only service animals are able to be used at the dam.
It’s hard to imagine just how big this dam is until you visit. Even though I had visited prior on road trip with my dad and brother in High School, it was hard to recall just how monstrous this is. You can chose to spend as much time here as you’d like. There’s a spot for food and snacks near the parking garage so if you stay for a few hours, there’s food on site. We only were there for about an hour and were happy with what we were able to do, especially since we had watched an hour or so long documentary the night prior.