Dam in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. It took 5 years to build, from 1931-1936. It is one of the largest dams in the world at 726 ft. (221 m) high and 1,244 ft. (379 m) long. It holds in the water which makes up Lake Mead. There are 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete in the dam, powerplant, and appurtenant works, about 5 million barrels of cement. The hydroelectric capacity of Hoover Dam is 1,345 Mw.

The original name of the dam was Boulder Dam, because it was going to be built in Boulder canyon. After the planners saw that the Black Canyon was more suitable, they decided to build it there, but the name Canyon Dam stuck with it. In 1930 when construction was beginning, Interior Secretary Ray Wilbur said he would name it Hoover Dam, after the president Herbert Hoover. Many people were upset at naming it this, and argued to keep it as Boulder Dam. In 1933, the new Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, said it would be named Boulder Dam, as originally planned. This name lasted until 1947, when a joint resolution of Congress permanently named it the Hoover Dam.

Two types of tours are given of the dam: The $8 tour that takes about 40 minutes and leaves every 20 minutes, and the more 'hard hat' tour (I think $20) that is much more involved. I wanted to take the hard hat tour, but my time was short because I wanted to see the Porn Stars at AdultDex, and the hard hat tour didn't leave for another hour and a half when I visited the dam. In retrospect, I should have waited around for the hard hat tour.

Some trivia gleaned from the normal tour:

  • When the dam was first built, there were theories bandied about that the enormous concentration of concrete in one spot would throw the earth off its axis. If this happened, some of the smaller countries were planning to sue for reparations in the World Court.
  • About 20 years ago, the administrator of the dam decided he didn't like the bats that lived there, so he had them exterminated. Needless to say, it is now plagued by insects. Attempts are being made to bring the bats back.
  • Although Las Vegas is only a 45 minute drive away from the dam (and half the time is spent on slow roads), it only gets about 2% of the dam's power output. This is because, when the dam was built and power was being assigned, the city only had a population of 6,000, and the mayor saw no reason for the population to increase by any significant amount.
  • The dam was originally expected to have a service life of 1,500 years. Now that other dams upstream of the Hoover Dam keep silt from accumulating under the dam, the expected lifetime has doubled to 3,000 years.
  • Watching specials on The History Channel, you will hear that about 100 people died during work on the dam. The number is actually over 400, but because the government listed Carbon Monoxide poisoning and Black Lung as unrelated diseases, most of these deaths were not listed as occupation-related.
  • At the top of the Dam, there is a star map that gives the appearance of the sky at the time that the dam was completed, as well as a description of the earth's axial wobble, so that archaeologists of the distant future might be able to fix the time that the dam was built.
  • The Hoover Dam is the only Federal Public Works project that has (directly) paid for itself.
The tour guides claim that, due to the impact of the Hoover Dam on irrigation, hydroelectric power, design of future dams, and growth of the Western United States, it is the most important structure ever built in human history. They may be right.

Unfortunately the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States have led to the likely permanent suspension of the Hoover Dam "hard-hat tours", considered too much of a security risk for a critical infrastructure component. Thereby preventing a second opportunity to enjoy a unique experience (along with viewing the New York - Manhattan skyline from the top of the World Trade Center.)

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