Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on U.S. 93, is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Summer is the busiest season. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the parking garage, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., fee $7 (cash only). For more information, visit www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam

Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which forms the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona. Considered to be the world’s largest dam and an engineering marvel at the time of its construction in the 1930s, Hoover Dam brings much-needed water and power to the Southwest.

The Bureau of Reclamation has offered tours of this National Historic Landmark since 1937. Today, the dam draws nearly a million visitors a year. Tourists are not only intrigued by the dam’s immense size and its huge hydroelectric generators, but also by the elegant Art Deco designs on the dam’s four towers, spillways, and power plant. The Nevada side plaza features two Modernist-style bronze sculptures called the Winged Figures of the Republic and a polished terrazzo floor. Here you’ll also find a plaque commemorating the 96 workers who died during the dam’s construction. Contrary to a popular myth, however, no workers are buried in the dam’s concrete.

Damming the Colorado River created Lake Mead, a National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. The lake offers boating, fishing, camping, houseboating, waterskiing and swimming. Hikers enjoy the stark beauty of the desert surrounding the lake. For information, visit http://www.nps.gov/lame. You can also take a paddlewheel ride on the lake; visit www.lakemeadcruises.com.

A spectacular four-lane highway bridge arching across the Colorado River opened in late 2010 and carries traffic between Nevada and Arizona. The older two-lane highway across the dam could no longer handle the 14,000 vehicles that travel here each day. Construction on the 1,900-foot-long structure, named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, began in 2005. An impressive feat of engineering, the supporting twin-rib arch span echoes the elegant curves of the dam itself.

A celebration and dedication occurred on October 14th, 2010, with pedestrian and bicycle traffic opening on October 18, 2010. Traffic began flowing on Tuesday night, October 19, 2010. You can learn more about the bypass construction project at “Hoover Dam Bypass US 93”: hooverdambypass.org.

Below the dam, you can launch paddle craft for a trip on the Colorado River or take a guided river tour. Access is limited as the area is a security zone. For information about launching your own craft or river trips, visit blackcanyonriveradventures.com.