Standing watch over the Colorado River at the Nevada-Arizona border, Hoover Dam has drawn more than seven million annual visitors since construction began in 1931 and remains one of the West’s most visited attractions. Impressive in size, scope, and scale, Hoover Dam lies at the intersection of the southeast corner of Nevada and the northwest corner of Arizona and impounds Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir by volume in the United States when it is full. Hoover Dam is the second tallest dam in the United States (Oroville Dam is number one and Glen Canyon Dam upriver is number three), standing 726 feet high and 1,244 feet across. Named for President Herbert Hoover, the dam regulates southern Nevada’s water supply, providing hydroelectric power and flood control/irrigation to 1.3 million residents of Nevada, Arizona, and southern California. The dam can be reached via Highway 93 South from Las Vegas by heading into Boulder City.
Sightseeing at Hoover Dam
You can walk or drive across the top of the dam, as long as you don’t mind starting on the Nevada side and returning to where you began, through-traffic is no longer permitted. (After all, more than 20,000 cars take this one-way trip each day.)
Be sure to stop by the Visitors’ Center (where tour tickets are sold). Don’t miss the large bronze angel statues titled “Winged Figures of the Republic.” Many visitors like to rub the base of these sculptures for good luck. Bonus tip: to see the dam in all its glory, get the bird’s-eye view from one of several daily helicopter tours.
Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
While there are more than enough things to see and enjoy at Hoover Dam, visitors can also marvel at, and even walk across, the massive Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Opened in 2010, the first concrete-steel arch composite bridge in the United States towers 890 feet over the Colorado River. The 1,905-foot-long man-made bridge connects Nevada and Arizona, and is named to honor a soldier from each state. Visitors who aren’t afraid of heights can even walk across the bridge for some great photo opportunities of Hoover Dam and Black Canyon below.
Hoover Dam Activities
There’s much more to see than just the dam, of course. Visitors to the area can take part in a whole lot of outdoor fun, from kayaking to canoeing and rafting near Hoover Dam’s river, aka the Colorado. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, including Bighorn Sheep, the official state animal of Nevada.
Hoover Dam Tours
The best way to see the dam is to take a fun and interactive tour, which grants visitors access to lesser-known parts of the dam. There’s also a powerplant tour for engineering fans to geek out on. Learn more about Hoover Dam tours.
Hoover Dam Hikes
Hiking is popular in the Hoover Dam area, with a couple particularly worth noting: first is the Gold Strike Hot Springs hike, offering a 600-foot descent into the spectacular scenery of Black Canyon. The other is the Historic Railroad Trail hike, which includes miles of impeccably-maintained level trails and large tunnels carved from the surrounding hillside.
Things to Do Nearby Hoover Dam
Visit Boulder City
If the glitz and neon of Las Vegas isn’t your speed, stay in nearby Boulder City for a little culture that represents a walk on the quieter side of things. With museums such as the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum and the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City offers a low-key getaway, but with plenty to see and do. The Boulder Dam Hotel is the perfect place to bed down at night.
Visit Lake Mead
Is there a Hoover Dam lake? Oh yes, there most certainly is. While you’re in the area, cap off your trip with a visit to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s home to the largest manmade reservoir in the nation, covering 110 miles across Nevada and Arizona. It’s a vital part of the Hoover Dam story, as the lake was formed when the United States Bureau of Reclamation chose the Black Canyon portion of the Colorado River to create the dam. Here, you’ll find fishing, boating, and swimming on placid Lake Mead waters, and plenty of camping spots on the beach. Make a Lake Mead/Hoover Dam day trip part of your next visit to Nevada.
Visiting Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam to Las Vegas Day Trip
Las Vegas is just 37 miles away from Hoover Dam, or 40 minutes by car. For those staying in the city and with access to a car, a short hop over to Hoover Dam is a given. Head out to the dam in the early afternoon and return to Las Vegas at nightfall as the lights of the city cast an electric glow against the brilliant shades of the sunset. Learn more about the Las Vegas to Hoover Dam day trip here.
Hoover Dam Lodging
With Boulder City a stone’s throw from the dam, there are a pair of great lodging options to check out. Stay and play at the Hoover Dam Lodge & Casino or kick back in comfort at the Boulder Dam Hotel.
Learn About Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam Water Levels
Water is a critical issue in the West, and it’s most evident in places like Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Recent drought years have dropped the dam’s water level from 1,225 feet in 1983 to its current level of 1,045 feet in early 2023. Winter storms in December 2022 and January 2023 have improved the dam’s level, but if drought conditions persist, the lake and dam could fall to levels so low (what’s called dead pool conditions) that no more electricity would be produced.
Where Is Hoover Dam?
So, where is Hoover Dam? Hoover Dam is located on the Nevada/Arizona border, with Las Vegas 37 miles to the northwest and Lake Mead and the Colorado River directly to the dam’s east. The nearest town is Boulder City, Nevada.
Hoover Dam History & Construction
Hoover Dam construction started in 1931 and wrapped up with the dam’s opening in 1936. Learn more about the history of the dam — including why the Secretary of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation decided to build the dam — here.