Hoover Dam tour memorable for visitors

BOULDER CITY, Nev. — Arriving at the Hoover Dam, often also called Boulder Dam, is a memory forever embedded in the minds of most that come to see the dam. The shocking heights of the 730 feet high grey concrete walls captivate visitors for hours.

“I stood for a good 15 minutes gazing at the size of the walls. There is nothing like this in Tallahassee,” commented Steven Mutter, 21. Mutter, a student at Florida State University, who was in Las Vegas with friends to celebrate Halloween.

Hoover Dam also serves as a main roadway across the Colorado River and Lake Mead between Nevada and Arizona (Photo by Diana Offutt).

“Most my friends are back in our room sleeping,” he said leaning over the dam’s walls clutching his digital camera. “I couldn’t imagine being so close to such an amazing structure as the Hoover Dam and not waking up to see it. To be a good friend, I bought them this book,” he said holding out a thin paperback book.

The book relays the vast history leading up to the building of the dam. Like its discovery in 1540 by the Spanish Explorer Hernando de Alarcon. It examines how the U.S. government began to explore the river in the 1850s because of the immense growth of the California gold rush and the need for a military post.

It goes into depth of how The Colorado River made the surrounding areas subject to unpredictable flooding until 1921 when representatives from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming met to put an end to the problems of flooding and to find a way to make use of the river’s natural flow.

Construction of the dam created the enormous reservoir known as Lake Mead. Lake Mead National Recreational Area is part of the National Park Service and provides residents and visitors with boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and other recreational opportunities. The dam, which is a highlight for any visit to the lake area, is administered by the federal Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Region division and is open for tours on a daily basis.

“The Colorado River, instead of being a menace, will now be a great benefit,” Ray Lyman Wilbur, Secretary of the Interior, stated upon the signing of the pact between the six states.

A sculpture at the Hoover Dam Visitor Center honors the men and women who worked to build the dam (Photo by Diana Offutt).

Today the drive to the dam is lined by the same rocky red canyon walls that the Spanish explorers first laid their eyes upon.  These walls convey the results of years of erosion that have transformed the region. The dry air from the desert heat that helped dry the concrete walls of the dam still fills the canyons and the Colorado River continues to sparkle like a blue stream of diamonds when hit by the midday sun.

But the construction of the dam was the beginning of a lifestyle in the region. A lifestyle enjoyed by people inspired by nature, like Jim Andreas, 64, that cannot be captured in a book. For what some would consider a retirement age, Andreas enjoys an active life centered around the dam and the resulting 115-mile long Lake Mead.

“I enjoy the lake. I often go fishing with my family out on our boat,” he said with a smile peeking out from behind the peppered grey whiskers on his tan face. “Fish like striper, large-mouth bass, and rainbow trout are common.”

It is by his slow speech that you can tell Andreas finds peace and relaxation from his surroundings. Andreas, dressed in an olive uniform reminiscent of a Mounties or forest ranger, works security at the dam. Like the constant changes of the river the dam has to adjust to changes, one being the threat of terrorism as a result of the attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Security has become more of a concern since 9/11 because of the importance of the dam for water control, domestic water, and water for farmlands,” Andreas said.

His appearance is striking to that of a park ranger but with one significant difference, Andreas is an employee of Wackenhut Security, a private company hired by the government in an attempt to maintain tight security at the dam. When guests of the dam arrive to begin their tours they are stopped by security before entering the dam and must go through metal detectors similar to airport security. Cars and trucks that pass over the dam may be subject to searches and road blocks.

All this security is in an effort to thwart terrorism and make the dam as safe as possible for its visitors, like Kati, 33 and Dylan, 34.

I met Kati and Dylan amongst the picture taking many at the dam. Both residents of Anaheim Hills, Calif., the slender couple had made the drive 30 miles from Las Vegas.

“We drove to Vegas from Anaheim Hills to Las Vegas and decided we couldn’t pass up the dam,” Dylan says.

“This is my first time seeing the dam. I’ve been waiting to come to the dam for a while,” Kati said in a European accent as her sort brown hair sways in the natural breezes atop the dam. “It is pretty impressive.”

Kati and Dylan are two great examples of the growing popularity of the dam and Lake Mead with younger generations.

From the busy crowds of youngsters out for summer break to the growing popularity of extreme water sports such as wakeboarding prove the endless potential for the region. Kids can enjoy a multitude of activities at the dam. The Hoover Dam tour includes a movie. Kids can enjoy games, gifts and food in the gift shop, which has amazing views looking over the dam.

A great way to see the dam if it is too hot outside for you. Guests can learn the history of the Hoover Dam by simply walking around the site on their own because of several speakers put in place that automatically give you a history of the spot which you are near.

One of the two Winged Figures of the Republic on the Nevada side of Hoover Dam (Photo by Diana Offutt).

For example, the dam has statues of two bronzed women known as the Winged Figures of the Republic, which are displayed on the Nevada side of the dam. Many visitors to the site rub the women’s feet for good luck. This type of information is a great advantage for travelers who are trying to save money or who are short on time.

Another interesting site at the dam is the two tan colored towers that are connected to the top of the dam. Each tower has a giant white clock on it that reads two different times. At first this seems odd, one clock the reads “Nevada” on it is an hour slower than the other one marked “Arizona.” The reason for the difference is to mark a change in time zone. So in the middle of the dam a person could have their feet in two different time zones at the same time.

It is clear when you visit the Hoover Dam or Lake Mead the awesome beauty of the region and the unbelievable feet of building the dam. The sheer height of the concrete walls and limitless supply of power make it an unmatched accomplishment by American ingenuity and construction.

Just as important is what the lake and the dam offer in terms of recreation and scenery that make this region impossible to resist by tourists and nature lovers alike.

A pair turbine housings, part of Hoover Dam, dominates the skyline at Lake Mead (Photo by Diana Offutt).


If You Go

Comments are Closed