Nothing can prepare you for seeing the gargantuan Hoover Dam in person. The dam has been called one of the greatest engineering works in history. The 726-foot tall arch-gravity structure is toured by about 1 million people each year, with millions more driving across, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. Hoover Dam is along the winding Colorado River, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas at the Nevada-Arizona border.
Hoover Dam towers 726 feet above the Colorado River.
During the Powerplant Tour, you’ll see audio and film presentations and exhibits, then be guided into the area that keeps the dam running. You’ll take an elevator 530 feet down through the Black Canyon for a 30-minute tour inside the plant. Another elevator ride takes you up to the balcony to get a panoramic view of the plant and eight of its enormous generators.
The longer and more-expansive Hoover Dam Tour takes you to lesser-known parts of the dam. Starting at the theater level, you’ll see maps, photos and displays. During the one-hour guided tour, you’ll enter into a construction tunnel drilled in the 1930s, then on to the Penstock Viewing Platform. You can peek out of air vents facing the dam and feel the breezes from the river below.
While you’re on the dam’s street level, you’ll see “Winged Figures of the Republic,” a bronze statue directly across from the Visitor Center.
Heading toward Lake Mead, stop in the Old Exhibit Building to see educational exhibits and a topographical model of the Colorado River.
Access the Observation Deck atop the Visitor Center by taking the stairs or elevator adjacent to the entrance of the Exhibit Gallery. There are both open and enclosed areas, providing panoramic views of Lake Mead, the Colorado River and the dam. You can listen to an audio presentation detailing facts about the dam and its surroundings.
On the River
If you’d like to launch a canoe, kayak or raft just below Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, you’ll need to contact a livery service to deliver your craft. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, access to the road leading to the launch site is limited to the bureau’s employees and contractors. Contact the launch permit phone line at (702) 494-2204 for paddle craft reservations and questions. If you’d like to arrange a raft trip or have other questions, call (702) 294-1414.
Tips and Warnings
Hoover Dam’s Visitor Center is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Certain vehicles cannot cross the dam, including buses with luggage, moving vans and vehicles carrying hazardous materials. If you’re uncertain whether your vehicle will be allowed to cross, contact the Bureau of Reclamation before traveling.
Do not take the tours if you suffer from claustrophobia (due to the enclosed spaces) or have a pacemaker or defibrillator (the tour is near generators emitting electromagnetic frequencies).
- the hoover dam image by Darren White from Fotolia.com