Visiting the Hoover Dam

Sometime when I was a teenager I decided I wanted to visit the Hoover Dam (yes, I was that nerdy). I couldn’t even tell you why…I probably heard about it in an old film and thought “I think I’ll check that out someday.” As things go, someday seemed to never come. Sure, I went to Vegas but I always found things to do in town and never ventured outside the city limits. So, when planning this most recent visit I decided it was about time to put my money where my mouth was and make the trek to the dam.

In prepping for the excursion I found that the Hoover Dam was a 45 minute drive from where I was staying and I fully expected to undertake a lonely drive through the desert. Well, 80 years ago the dam may have been in the middle of nowhere but in the interim Vegas has grown by leaps and bounds and no sooner had I left the area behind I found myself in Boulder City.

The Hoover Dam was constructed between 1931 and 1936 and Boulder City was formed to house the project workers. Over 80 years later it’s an honest to goodness city that serves as the gateway to it’s former namesake (Hoover Dam was named Boulder Dam until 1947).

Today the dam is a busy tourist spot so I decided to get there early to try to beat the crowds. I arrived about an hour after it opened and found it to be busy but not yet overwhelmingly crowded. There are various tour options available and wanting to get the full experience I opted for the Powerplant and Dam tour.

The Powerplant, located at the base of the dam, still functions to this day and supplies electricity to Nevada, Arizona and Southern California. In fact, between the power generated and tour ticket sales Hoover Dam has managed to be self-sustaining during its entire existence.

On our tour we were able to view the switch that started the whole operation running all those years ago. And who turned the switch on opening day? Good old FDR.

When the Hoover Dam was built it was the height of the Art Deco era and several stylish motifs are featured throughout its design. In the Powerplant I was especially fond of the terrazzo flooring featuring electricity inspired images.

From the Powerplant we entered the dam itself and found ourselves traveling throughout its inner workings.

We even had chance to view the Colorado River from a vent smack dab in the middle of it.

Soon enough we found ourselves on top of the dam and our tour was over. It was both fascinating and informative and I was so happy to finally cross it off my list. But, I couldn’t leave just yet as there was more to see.

The Hoover Dam straddles the border between Nevada and Arizona and I couldn’t resist walking from one state to another.

Back in Nevada I noticed a small building off to the side with an exhibit sign. Curious, I headed inside and made my favorite discovery of the visit.

Inside a small room was a perfectly preserved mid-century diorama of the dam and all the areas it services.

A 10 minute presentation accompanies the diorama and I listened to a long ago engineer explain its unique story. What a treasure! As a lover of historic artifacts I’m so happy this wonderful slice of the past has been preserved. I’ll take it over a contemporary film any day!

My last stop was at a memorial to those killed during the dam’s construction. Officially there were 96 casualties but the true number is somewhere between 200-400. It’s a sobering reminder of the ultimate sacrifice many had to pay in the name of progress.

The Hoover Dam is fascinating part of American History and I’m glad I finally was able to see it in person. I’ll take it over the Vegas Strip any day.


  1. Vienna March 1, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Fascinating. I live in Scotland but have always wanted to see the Dam, also the Grand Canyon and San Simeon ( being a classic film fan).

    1. Melanie March 1, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      I have yet to go to the Grand Canyon but I have been to San Simeon. It is a definite must for us classic film fans!

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