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The Incredible Story Of Hoover Dam

Updated on July 15, 2012

Major Tourist Attraction

Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction and is visited by as many as 3,000 people daily. In the mid 1960’s I was one of them.

My family traveled extensively across the United States while I was growing up since my dad was a career Air Force man and frequently ordered to various duty stations. Hoover Dam was one of his favorite things to see, so we visited it several times. He never considered the fact I’m afraid of heights. But I enjoyed it immensely anyway.

The history of the dam is an amazing story. It is an engineering and architectural marvel and it changed the face of the American Southwest forever. Without it, there wouldn't be a Las Vegas. Where else do you think you could harness enough electrical power to run a gazillion slot machines? In fact, the growth of our entire Southwest can be directly attributed to the dam.

During the Great Depression, Americans built the Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, overcoming colossal technical challenges to erect one of the greatest engineering works in history. The massive project involved an army of more than 5,200 laborers working 24 hours a day.Over a hundred of which lost their lives.


Construction on the project began early in 1931 and was completed in 1936, 2 years under schedule. It was formally dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 30, 1935. Over 3,000,000 cubic yards of concrete was used in the dam.

A concrete structure of its size had never been attempted before. The dam’s generators provide power for utilities in Arizona, Nevada and California.

Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead which is located near Boulder City, Nevada. Boulder City was originally built for construction workers on the project and is about 30 miles south of Las Vegas.

Before the Dam was built, much of the southwestern United States was just parched, sandy terrain lacking irrigation most of the year. Major flooding the rest of the time caused by melting snow pouring into the Colorado River destroyed crops, property and lives. On the other hand these same rushing waters carved the Grand Canyon.

The dam is a massive curved wall, 660 feet thick at the bottom and tapers to 45 feet at the top. It rises 726 feet above bedrock, about the height of a 60-story building and holds back 9.2 trillion gallons of water in Lake Mead.

Hoover Dam Visitor Center opened in 1995. It’s a three-level circular concrete structure with a rooftop overlook. Tours are available, but because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security measures have been instituted and tours of the dam are now somewhat restricted.

It's no longer the lengthy experience it used to be because access is so limited. The different tours and pricing available are subject to change due to current world conditions.


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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      There is also steel and buttresses. The curvature also strengthens it. Then there's that little Dutch boy with his finger stuck in the hole...

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      This is something I don’t yet understand – exactly how and why does a concrete wall block water – considering the pressure of the water. I guess this is elementary engineering. Interesting hub, voted up.

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