Las Vegas, NV

22 July 2006

Hoover Dam

We had been focusing our attention on nature's work and today, we went to look at a work of man that has modified nature's work. Hoover Dam was completed in 1936 as a flood control, water management and power generating structure. The dam was an engineering and construction marvel in its time and remains one of the largest dams of its kind in the world. Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall and provides water and power to parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California. Seventeen turbines turn generators that deliver 4.8 billion kilowatt hours a year.

Since 9/11, security for the dam has been enhanced. All vehicles crossing the bridge are subject to inspection. Large trucks and tractor trailers are no longer permitted to cross over the dam. Instead, they are diverted to a crossing miles downstream. A new bridge, the Colorado River Bridge, is being built across Black Canyon, 1,600 feet downstream of the dam.

I had crossed Hoover Dam at least six times while on business trips. Carrie and I made a visit to the Dam fifteen years ago but were unable to take a tour of it because the new Visitors Center was under construction. The tour takes you down 500 feet into the depth of the dam and the Nevada side of the Power Plant. When you walk through the Power Station and the tunnels that were blasted to make the dam possible, you are amazed that they were able to build it in such a wild place.

Nature still has a degree of control over man in this area. The drought that has plagued this area has lowered the level of Lake Meade by 30 feet (at its lowest it was 50 feet). The marks on the side of Lake Meade show the difference between the high water mark and current levels. Every foot that the lake drops, represents a reduction in electric power output.

Hoover Dam viewed from highway 93
Visitors Center
Turbines on the Nevada side of the Power Station
Station-service generator provides 2.4 megawatts to run the Power Station. A twin is in the Arizona side of the station.
One of four Penstocks, 30 foot diameter pipes that feed the water to the turbines
Tunnels originally used in the construction of the dam are now used for tours and maintenance
Power Plant, Arizona side, at top
Jet flow gates, originally part of the diversion tunnels, are used in emergency to lower the level of Lake Meade
Construction equipment used to build the new Colorado River Bridge
Nevada water inlets feed water through the penstocks to the turbines
Low water, as seen on the shores of Lake Meade and the upstream side of Hoover Dam
Legend has it that if you rub the feet of the two statues located on the Nevada side of Hoover Dam, you will have good luck at the Las Vegas Casinos. We are going to a show in one of the Casinos tonight and we may test the legend.