Hoover Dam Tour
We finally made it over to Hoover Dam - a place we've discussed visiting for years. We splurged and did the big tour that covered the dam, power plant, and visitor exhibits. We arrived bright and early to see if we could get one of the first tours of the day since the temps were supposed to get pretty high during our visit. It worked! We were in the first group.
The first part of the tour was the power plant. Below is a diversion tunnel where water flows through a pipe 30' in diameter that feeds the power plant.
Water is divided into 8 smaller pipes that pass through turbines to generate the power.
During our tour, one of the generators was disassembled for maintenance, so we were able to see the guts of the machine. Just one of these is heavier than the Statue of Liberty. It take two large cranes (pictured in the back of the room in the picture above) to move them. See the man in the background to see just how large these things are.
The power plant is at the base of the dam on on either side of the canyon walls. This is where we saw the generators. (The green circle will come in to play later.)
After the power plant tour, we went into the heart of dam itself.
The tunnels we traveled haven't been altered since they were built in the 1930's. All doors and fixtures are original. The tour guide did admit, however, that the light bulbs had been changed. The picture below is in the middle of the dam and you can see the curve of the hallway as it passes through the interior. The dam was about 500 feet thick at this hallway. Along the corridor, there was a small gutter (just to the left of the yellow line) for seepage. Everything was dry during our tour.
At one point, our guide took us to an off-shoot passage that lead to a staircase which traveled from the top to the bottom of the dam. No turns, no landing, just 700+ feet from top to bottom. He told us that he walked the length of it years ago and had trouble walking for days afterward. We'll take his word for it.
Another divergent tunnel took us to a vent in the dam so that we could see outside. The green circle in the dam picture earlier in this post is the vent we looked out of. To get to this vent, we passed over a grate that covered a 200 foot shaft. We stood on it only long enough to get a picture (which didn't turn out.)
Once topside, we took our obligatory "We Were Here!" picture.
Below is the dedication monument from the 1930's. There were many different parts and many symbolic meanings associated with the dedication. We remember something about messages to aliens, but not much else because we were hungry, it was getting a bit warm, and we had already seen so much that our brains weren't listening.
We also got a shot of US 93 in the distance. This will soon be an interstate connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas.
We tried to take a short video of our drive across the top of the dam. Sorry it is so jittery.
As we drive home we turned around to get this shot of a small part of Lake Mead. Hoover dam is off to the right, two inlets beyond the darker mound.
While it was interesting and great to have that inside the dam experience, we both felt the cost was quite high for what you got from the tour. The Exhibits were well done, but seemed a bit fragmented and not cohesive. We were left with unanswered questions. Are we glad we did it? Absolutely! We got to go inside the Hoover Dam! Would we do it again? Nah, we will keep our $70 and just look at the free stuff.
Boulder City & Museum
While in NV, we are staying in Boulder City. This is where most of the dam builders lived while Hoover Dam was under construction. It is only about 8 miles away from the dam itself and about 25 miles from Las Vegas. It is a wonderful little town. The entrance to the historic district definitely has a 1930's appeal. This sign is walking distance from the RV park where we are staying and just to the left of the monument, you can see the church we visited the last two weeks. Just out of view is Albertsons and Capriotti's Sandwich Shop. Everything we could need is very close by!
We drove downtown to visit the Boulder City / Hoover Dam Museum.
This is an excellent little museum found behind Boulder City Dam Hotel built in 1932. The museum only covered a few rooms, but gave you a real feel for what life was like for the men and families while the dam was being built. Many of our unanswered questions from the dam tour were answered here. Many families moved to the area during the dam building days and the town was build to house them. Boulder City was a government town (reservation) when it was built and you had to have a stamped pass to enter or stay there. To enter, your car was searched for alcohol because "alcohol and dynamite don't mix."
Everyone expected the city to be abandoned after the completion of the project, but folks liked it and decided to stay. The "31ers" are folks who lived there during the dam building days and still live there today. If you are anywhere nearby, this stop is a must! We spent more time in the few rooms of this museum than the multiple buildings at Hoover Dam.
Museum admission $2 each; parking $0; learning about brave folk who braved 120* temps to build a dam = priceless!
During both these tours we saw quite a bit of the struggles these men and women went through to build this dam. They helped tame a river that previously nourished and devastated those who lived along it. They and their families also built an oasis in a parched land. Many moved to the dessert to find work to feed their families during the Depression, but they accomplished so much more!