http://www.scenic.com/tours/hoover-dam-bus-tour | Learn the fascinating history of Hoover Dam and its construction. See why it is the most-visited dam in the world. Together with Lake Mead and the nearby Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, it manages water flow from the mighty Colorado River into three surrounding states.
Why the Hoover Dam was built
One of the world’s highest dams,1
Hoover Dam has had a record of superlatives since its opening
in 1936. It instantly became a kind of national monument to the ingenuity and drive of American
engineering. Celebrated with pride and plenty of emotion, it—together with the manmade Lake
Mead created by the dam’s construction—remains as popular a tourist attraction as Grand
Canyon tours. In fact, it is now described as the most-visited dam in the world, with 7 million
tourists arriving each year,2
a kind of historic “Great Wall of China” for the U.S.
So How Big Is It?
Its dimensions are so outsized that it is difficult to understand its mass without seeing it in
person. At 660 feet thick, and the height of a 60-story building (726 feet), the fact that old U.S.
Highway 93 proceeded directly over the top conveys a sense of proportion.2
The need to accommodate a constant flow of visitors while enhancing the dam’s security, led to
the construction and recent opening of the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge. At 900 feet, and
spanning the dramatic flow of the Colorado River below, it too has become an engineering
wonder-of-the-world and tourist attraction. Now, visitors can drive across it and look back with a
broader perspective at the amazing Hoover Dam.2
Visitors have plenty of options for viewing this amazing monument, from the providers of Grand
Canyon air tours. A guided tour combining helicopter fly-by and bus transport to and from the
dam, its Visitor’s Center and museum offer guided historical insights, and avoid the worst traffic
and navigation challenges.
How Did This Start?
First called Boulder Dam for Boulder Canyon, the location originally proposed, it was renamed
in 1947 for then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who had overseen the project’s
Colorado River Compact negotiations. This hard-fought battle for ultimate water rights led to the
agreed split of river waters among seven states that enabled the project to move forward.
The dam was conceived as a solution to longstanding problems caused by the Colorado River’s
devastating floods that destroyed railroads, highways, homes, and crops, and created the Salton
Sea in one extraordinary overflow. It was intended to achieve great things beyond flood control,
and has fulfilled those hopes by supplying much-needed irrigation and hydroelectric power for
the fast-growing agricultural and urban regions in surrounding states.
Once the split and agreement was established, construction began in earnest with a dedication
ceremony in 1930, construction launched in 1931, and the first bucket out of 5 million barrels of
concrete poured in 1933.
Hoover Dam’s story began to unfold as thousands of men and their families gathered, seeking
what would prove to be some of the toughest, most dangerous jobs anywhere—welcome after
the Great Depression that started in 1929.3
Migration of desperate workers to the site began ahead of job availability, when housing had not
been constructed to accommodate them. Many lived in harsh conditions at the job site, waiting
for work. The community known as “Ragtown” developed on the floor of Black Canyon, with
families sheltering in cardboard boxes and tents against the desert heat and freezing nights. Over
25 men, women, and children died of exposure in one summer.
By 1932, the federal government had constructed barracks, stores, and public welfare services
for the workers, all of which led to the town of Boulder City, Nevada, which is still a thriving
community overlooking Lake Mead.3
Hiring practices at the dam reflected some of the worst
injustices found in the society-at-large, with African-Americans and Asians largely excluded,
and local Native Americans only hired for a few of the most dangerous jobs, hanging
precariously on high canyon walls to clear obstructions.
Those lucky enough to be hired faced harsh working conditions. Workers labored to drive
tunnels through canyon walls and line them with concrete in temperatures as high as 140
degrees. In the summer of 1933, it was reported that one worker died every two days.
Was It Worth It?
Finally, the extraordinary work of building Hoover Dam was completed in 1935,4
monumental source of pride to the region and a National Historic Landmark. Today, besides
controlling and apportioning the flow of the Colorado River, the dam releases about 2,000 to
3,000 cubic feet of water per second, operating giant turbines that generate electricity. The power
produced serves an estimated 1.3 million people across southern California and parts of Arizona
Learn the fascinating history of Hoover Dam and its construction. See why it is the most-visited
dam in the world. Together with Lake Mead and the nearby Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, it
manages water flow from the mighty Colorado River into three surrounding states.
Scenic Airlines has set the standard for aerial sightseeing tour operators since it began flying
over the Grand Canyon in 1967. Now world-famous for their Grand Canyon airplane tours and
visits to other great National Parks of the United States, they remain the largest and most
experienced aerial tour operator in the world. For more information, call 800-634-6801, or visit
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