Monday, November 17, 2014

Hoover Dam - 11/13/14

After dining at the Wynn Buffet, we travelled 35 miles to the east through Boulder City to visit Hoover Dam. It is a concrete, arch-gravity dam located in the Black Canyon of of the Colorado River. What an amazing engineering feat completed in 1935.

The 1,400 mile long Colorado River has flowed from the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of California through the arid terrain of the American West for millions of years. The river often flooded the low-lying areas and would dry up to a trickle by early fall. The primary purpose of the Hoover Dam project was to manage the river but actually there are multiple benefits derived:

1. Irrigation of more than a million acres of America crop lands and about half a million in Mexico.
2. Meeting the domestic water needs of more than 20 million people in Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona.
3. Generation of low-cost hydroelectric power for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Hoover Dam remains one of the largest hydropower facilities in the US. The original $165M cost of the project has been repaid (plus interest) to the Federal Treasury through the sale of power (56% to Southern California, 19% to Arizona, 25% to Nevada). Additionally, the revenue generated today continues to pay for 100% of the operation and ongoing maintenance of the power plant.
4. Recreational use of the Lake Mead (America's largest man-made reservoir storing 28.5 million acre-feet [9.2 trillion gallons] of water as well as Lake Mohave downstream from the dam.
5. Wildlife refuges and backwaters have been developed below the dam to replace habitat lost due to the construction of the dam.

There is a security checkpoint at the entry point of the property where your vehicle may be subject to search. There is also a security checkpoint (similar to an airport one without the body scanning) to enter the Visitor Center where all tours begin. You can drive on the road that is at the top of the dam or park in the parking garage and walk across it (which is what we did).

There is a $10 fee for parking as well as a $10 admission fee for the Visitor Center. Several tours are also available for higher fees. John and I had taken the $15 (short) tour when we visited in 2011. Today we spent time in the Visitor Center where there are well-designed exhibits about the dam as well as an observation deck that provides great views of the dam as well as the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (more on that below).

Another area of interest is the 30' high bronze sculpture by Oskar Hansen, Winged Figures of the Republic.

It is the custom is to rub the toes of the two figures for good luck! We all made sure to do so as we can use all of the luck we can get...

There is a 142' flag pole between the two winged figures with this image on the floor and plaque at the base.

Hansen was also responsible for other various heroic and mythical works of are in and around the dam. There is a terrazzo floor with a celestial chart that shows the exact position of key stars on the day of the dedication of the dam. Also, there is an astrological touch where I snapped photos of each of us with our respective signs (don't ask me why!)

Amanda - Cancer
Justine - Virgo
John - Gemini
Me - Pisces

Over 100 workers died in the construction of the dam. The working conditions were horrendous: dangerous and very hot (119 F during the summer and 140 F in the tunnels). The pay was also very low and several disputes occurred between the management and workers during the building of the dam and management won every one. Nonetheless, the project was completed two years ahead of schedule! Here are some plaques commemorating those individuals.

Also, here is a plaque above the grave of the worker's mascot dog. Our dog, Sadie, was particularly intrigued by this (just kidding).

Here are some sights of the views when we walked across the top of the dam.

Plaque along the walkway that documents the Nevada and Arizona state lines. When I took this photo, I had one foot in Nevada and the other in Arizona.

A shot of John and I standing at the same location.

This tower is on the Nevada side of the dam.

And this one on the Arizona. Note the time difference as Nevada is in the Pacific Time Zone.

View of intake towers from Arizona on the Lake Mead side of the dam.

And a duck at the base of a tower...

Next stop was the Visitor Center. Loved the exhibits here. Here are some fast facts about the impressive.

Hoover Dam designations.

Hoover Dam innovations.
Electrical output.
The power grid.

Views from the Observation Deck of the Visitor Center.

The turbines that generate the electrical output are located in the buildings at the base of the dam; 8 on one and 9 in the other.

These towers are at an amazing angle to keep the cables from touching the canyon walls (and shorting out).

The amazing Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge completed in 2010 which was part of the project to reroute US 93 (is used to cross the top of the Hoover Dam causing major traffic delays).

The bridge is named after the governor of Nevada (Mike O'Callaghan) and the former Arizona Cardinals player who enlisted in the US Army and was subsequently killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire. It is the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the US and is the widest concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It is the 2nd highest bridge in the US and the world's highest one. The cost to construct it was $114 million.

This is a very interesting site to visit. If you're in Las Vegas, it's worth the time to see this engineering marvel. You can rent a car or take one of the many tours offered from Vegas.


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