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Visiting Hoover Dam on the Colorado River

Outside of Las Vegas is one of the largest single-site construction projects in the world – Hoover Dam. Completed in 1936, it was designed to provide power and water to Las Vegas and all of southern California. During our recent trip to Las Vegas, we stopped here on our way to the Grand Canyon.

As a child, my parents brought me here several times to see this masterpiece of engineering. On my childhood trips, I remember a long backlog of cars waiting for their turn to go driving across Hoover Dam.

The Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge at Hoover Dam
The Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

However, on this trip, the new Hoover Dam Bypass for U.S. 93 is now open (called the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) and carries the cars directly over the Black Canyon, offering stunning views of the massive concrete barrier and the river over a thousand feet below.

Driving across the top of the dam, I noticed the low water levels on Lake Mead, in contrast to the high-water levels when I came in 1982 with my family. There was plenty of parking on the Arizona side and we walked back across the dam taking in its incredible heights (this might be a good time to mention I don’t do well with heights!).

Lance and his mom in 1982
Lance visiting Hoover Dam in February 1982

Looking out over the concrete wonder, I was reminded of another trip here in the late 1980s. My father had arranged for a behind the scenes tour of Hoover Dam. We rode down deep into this monstrous structure in an Art deco elevator.

Deep inside the massive structure, we got to see about 20 giant turbine generators that produced all of the power. The tour also took us outside at the bottom of dam to look back up. This is an absolutely massive structure that you can only truly appreciate from the bottom!

After reminiscing about my childhood visits, we headed back out of the canyon and stopped at the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, where we were able to walk out half way and take incredible pictures of the dam below. Pictures just don’t do justice to the size of this structure!

Welcome to Nevada Sign at Hoover Dam
Welcome to Nevada Sign

Located just 37 miles from The Strip in Sin City, it can be reached in less than an hour. It is easy to see why this is one of the most popular excursions from Las Vegas!

Welcome to Arizona Sign at the Hoover Dam
Welcome to Arizona Sign
No Pets Sign, Hoover Dam
No Pets Sign – it’s a long way down

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