The Hoover Dam

We had now seen the Grand Canyon and it was time to continue West to Las Vegas.

Having experienced the hotel breakfast the previous morning and found it seriously wanting at an exorbitant price we decided to check out and find a place down town Williams. We were successful in finding a delightful café and enjoyed excellent fare. Time to get on the road. As we continued through Nevada from Arizona the scenery remained much the same; mountainous and very dry. 

Mountains in NevadaMountains of Nevada

As we drove we agreed to visit the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. What an incredible project this was. When one sees the extent of the building and the conditions under which it was done makes it truly remarkable. The ground is solid rock and the heat and dryness are indescribable.

Sculpture of dam workerSculpture of a man working at the dam construction

Even though it was the end of summer for us it was still exceedingly hot so it must have been quite awful working under these conditions over the 4 years, 1931-1935, it took to build the dam. The roads around the dam and the entrance had all been changed since Pat and Mike had last visited this area and it took us a while to find the right approach road.

At the entrance there was a strong security presence to whom any weapons had to be declared and given. We went through and parked the car and went straight to the Visitors’ Centre from where we had hoped to go on a tour through the dam wall and powerhouse. Unfortunately we could not do that as Trevor has a pacemaker which could be a risk with all the electricit throooy involved.

Huge rock formationAn example of the rock they had they had to work with

We took the opportunity to walk all around the area. It was astonishing to see how low the water level in the dam was since its inception. The rocky walls had a white section at the bottom the top of which was the original level of the water. Also there were 2 intake towers which clearly indicated the drop in water levels. Apparently this was the result of drought over the millennial years but also the large consumption of water by residents of Nevada, Arizona and California which are served by the dam. The lowest level was recorded in July 2016.

Dam level towersThe 2 intake towers.  The water level used to be at the top of the mesh

Rocks showing dam levels 2The top of the white section was the original level of the water

The dam is not only for the supply of water but also hydro-electric power but power can only be generated when the level exceeds 1000ft and it has come dangerously close to this in the last 5 years. Because of the low levels since 2016, power has only been generated on an as needed basis. The process is that all the water comes down the Colorado River into Lake Mead on which the dam wall was built, through the 2 intake towers into the 4 gradually narrowing penstocks which force the water into the powerhouse to generate the electricity. Pylons built all around the dam deliver to the municipalities of the 3 states.

Roof of the engine roomThe Powerhouse

Not only is the construction parts of the dam itself of interest but so are the architectural and memorial details added. The first thing owater usdne notices are the 2 huge bronze winged statues designed and built by Oskar Hansen. Their wings alone are 30ft high and they flank a 142ft high flagpole. The floor around them has been designed to depict the night sky stars exactly as they were on 30 September 1935 when the dam was opened. As Hansen believed that the dam was for the future, this diagram means that at any time in the future people will be able to know the exact date of completion.

Angel statuesThe winged statues

Plaques at the damPlaques acknowledging workers. In the center is the Memorial to the many who died during construction

Around the dam and in the Visitors’ Centre there are diagrams and plaques which celebrate the whole region and peoples around the dam of both Nevada and Arizona. On top of each side of the Spill House is a clock, one showing Arizona time and Nevada time which are different for 6 months of each year as Arizona does not have daylight saving.

Spillway HouseSide of the Spill House with the clock showing Nevada time

 So much history and such an amazing feat.

Memorial to those who died hereMemorial to those who died

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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