The Hoover Dam, completed in 1935, is on the border between Nevada and Arizona, approximately 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The dam straddles the Colorado River and helps control flooding while providing irrigation to parts of Arizona, California and Mexico. It also provides hydroelectric power to Arizona, California and Nevada. More than seven million people visit the dam each year, and more than 10 million visit the lake formed by the dam, Lake Mead.
Visitors can see the Colorado River from inside the Hoover Dam.
The Powerplant Tour begins in the Hoover Dam’s Visitor Center, where guests can view exhibits and see a 10-minute film about the history of the dam. An elevator takes visitors 530 feet down into the dam to the Penstock Viewing Platform, located on top of one of the four pipes that transport water from Lake Mead to the dam’s hydroelectric generators. The pipes are 30 feet wide, and water can pass through them at a rate of 90,000 gallons per second. Another elevator ride takes visitors up to the balcony, where they have a view of the Nevada wing of the power plant and eight of the dam’s 17 generators. The tour takes about 40 minutes to complete, including the film.
The Hoover Dam Tour includes admission to the Visitor Center, the Powerplant Tour and a guided tour of the dam’s interior. After the Powerplant Tour, the dam tour continues down to a narrow ventilation shaft. Metal shutters in the shaft allow visitors to see the road above and the Colorado River below. Visitors can also pass through several concrete tunnels in the depths of the dam and see inspection markings written during the dam’s construction. The total length of the tour is approximately two hours.
Helicopter tours give visitors a chance to see the Hoover Dam from the air. Paradise Found Tours offers a 30-minute round-trip sunset helicopter ride from Las Vegas to the dam. It departs from Las Vegas, and complimentary pickup service from area hotels to the air terminal is available. The helicopter first flies to the dam, then hovers over the dam, the Colorado River and Lake Mead before returning to Las Vegas. Guests get an aerial view of the lights from the Las Vegas Strip and downtown before returning to the terminal. The Grand Canyon Tour Company offers a helicopter tour beginning in Las Vegas, traveling to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon and stopping in the canyon on the Hualapai Indian Reservation for breakfast or brunch. The tour continues to the Hoover Dam for an 11-mile rafting trip from the base of the dam down the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. After a box lunch, guests are returned to Las Vegas by bus. This tour takes approximately nine hours.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, was formed by the Hoover Dam. It extends over 100 miles behind the dam, crossing over the border between Nevada and Arizona. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Boulder City, Nevada, is open throughout the year for activities such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming and scuba diving. Divers can see the former Aggregate Plant, where the concrete used in the dam’s construction was washed. A sunken World War II B-29 bomber is submerged in Lake Mead and accessible by guided tour with local technical dive companies. Visitors can also hike or bike though the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, part of the 30-mile former railroad line that was used to transport construction materials from Boulder City to the Hoover Dam construction site. The National Park Service offers guided hikes in the fall and winter, as well as interpretive ranger programs throughout the year.
- U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Reclamation: Boulder Canyon Project – Hoover Dam
- History: Hoover Dam
- U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Reclamation: Hoover Dam Powerplant Tour
- U.S Department of the Interior: Bureau of Reclamation: Hoover Dam Tour
- Paradise Found Tours: Sunset Las Vegas and Hoover Dam Tour
- Grand Canyon Tour Company: Grand Canyon A/G and Black Canyon Rafting
- U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Reclamation: Hoover Dam: Contact Us
- Paradise Found Tours: Contact Us
- Grand Canyon Tour Company: Contact Us
- National Park Service: Lake Mead National Recreation Area: Contact Us
- University of Nevada-Las Vegas: Digital Collections: Hoover Dam Construction
- Reference 7: National Park Service: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
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