The Hoover Dam is one of the world’s largest concrete structures and the 38th greatest producer of hydroelectric power. Built in the 1930s, it was designed to tame the Colorado River and also irrigate the dry land of Western America. The structure remains intact today, with a bypass running along the top of its 60 story height.
Farmers living in western America first tried to tame the ‘Mighty Colorado’ river in 1901 by building a canal system further towards the west called the ‘Imperial Valley’ but suddenly the river became more wild and in 1905 it flooded the valley and destroyed the canal system. It created an inland lake that took up 150 square miles and precious farmland was lost, bankrupting the families. In 1907 farmers, citizens and people who wanted to move to the west started looking at where they could place a dam. Another problem in the west was that the desert land there was arid and desperately needed irrigation. After four years of testing, plans for the Hoover Dam then began to go ahead as it could kill two birds with one stone.
In total, the Hoover Dam was to cost $165 million; a bill that the government was anxious of, but knew it was necessary. Luckily, the developers realized they could harness the hydroelectric power produced by the dam and sell it (primarily to the busy and bright city of Los Angeles), to fund the cost of its construction. The plans were finally commissioned in 1929 and construction was allowed to begin.
When plans for the Hoover Dam were drawn up in the mid 1920s, professional and experienced engineers deemed it physically impossible. However, construction began in 1930 and proved those engineers very wrong indeed.
In the three years before the Hoover Dam began its construction, many men in Las Vegas were out of work due to a depression, so they took trains to the site of the Hoover Dam and found jobs there. The only problem was that construction didn’t start for another year. Colorado soon became overrun with the families of these men who had moved with them in wagons and set up their lives in fields, waiting for construction to start for a full year. The conditions were squalid, with most people living in shabby tents. The temperature reached highs of 50 degrees Celsius and many feared for their lives as they baked in the hot sun day after day.
Finally construction started and the men risked their lives for very little pay. In total 112 died during the construction of the Hoover Dam, but just 6 years later in 1936 the Dam was complete, and the future of Western America was about to change considerably. Today there is also a two lane road running along the top of the dam, also known as part of the U.S Route 93. There is now also a Hoover Dam bypass project in place, with the Colorado River Bridge just 1500 feet south of the Hoover Dam itself.
How to Get There:
Luckily for those who wish to visit the Hoover Dam, it is located right by some of Western America’s biggest cities, i.e. Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego. You may want to visit these places first and then travel to the Hoover Dam as part of a week or fortnight long holiday.
Flying to Las Vegas McCarran airport is your easiest option, and there are plenty of hotels, restaurants and means of entertainment in this city. From your accommodation you can rent a car, or catch a taxi to the Hoover Dam itself. At this one of the seven wonders of the industrial world you can take a guided tour.
Where to Stay:
Your best bet for comfortable accommodation is to stay at a hotel in Las Vegas, as this area is close to shops and restaurants, whereas this is not necessarily the case right by the Hoover Dam.
If you’re looking for a budget stay in Las Vegas then try the Inn Link (Siena Suites) lodge where rooms start at as little as $44 per night. For something more mid-range try the Sunset Station Hotel with rooms starting at $100. For luxury stays, however, we recommend Loews Hotel which was renovated in 2007. Rooms start at around $230. All of these hotels are within 15 miles of the Hoover Dam.