This past week, I traveled to Las Vegas for a family visit and quickly planned a few crazy wish list of activities outside of the Vegas strip. Not sure how I am going to make it through this list, but first on that list was a trip to one of the seven modern civil engineering wonders of the United States – The Hoover Dam. Considered to be the world’s largest dam during the end of its construction in 1930’s the engineering marvel brings much-needed water and power to Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada.
We started our visit by first checking out the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, few people realized that there is a pedestrian walkway that you can take to walk along the bridge. It wasn’t very obvious. You can get to the bypass through the parking lot, by climbing a few steps the to the footbridge that runs parallel to the bypass bridge. There is also a smooth switchback path for the mobility impaired, right next to the steps that take you to the footbridge — well thought out.
View from the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
Unbelievable! It took longer to build than the Hoover Dam. Accessing the bridge was one of my favorite things to do there. It’s an easy walk up. I know we’re here for the Dam, however, this bridge is an amazing feat of engineering itself. Although built for speedier traffic by alleviating traffic passing through on the dam; I think extra thought went into its design. There’s a mirror effect by both engineering marvels. From the bridge, the Hoover Dam appears to be unreal in full view, from the Dam, the bridge leaves you breathless as it sprawls over the horizon with both feet firmly placed at mind boggling locations.
If you’re attempting the bridge crossing, be mindful that the bridge is over 900 feet high, so If you are afraid of heights, this may not be the place for you. The wind gust here is also very strong. Nevertheless, the walk across the bridge gives an incredible view of the face of the Dam.
The bridge is the best place to take pictures of the Hoover Dam in full view, a huge accomplishment if you complete the walk across.
View of The Bridge from the Dam
Mmm This could make a good bungee jumping spot. A matter of time before someone takes up that opportunity.
Declining water levels of Lake Mead
As much as I love visiting Vegas and would love to live there, visiting the Hoover Dam changed my mind. The water level in the reservoir continues to fall toward empty, now at it’s the lowest level due to a 10-year drought.
You can see a visibly, almost scary deep white water stain on the rocky edges which shows the dramatic fall in the water levels.
Ultimately, the Hoover Dam may have been an engineering marvel which respectably it still is, but its time to make some serious adjustments and adopt some newer engineering techniques to take over its duties.
Power Plant and Dam Tour
Tour prices appear reasonable enough. However, due to time constraints, we were not able to visit the power plant at the base of the Dam nor were we able take the Helicopter tour. Of course, I was a bit pissed — I love helicopter rides–next time. Spotted it on the drive in, the helicopter tour with views of Lake Mead and the Dam is $39 per person, located near the entrance of the parking lot.
Arrive as early as possible, traffic gets insane from noon onwards. One our way out, witness a stand still jam which we estimated would’ve delayed us from reaching the base of the Dam by 1hr and half had we been caught up in it. Yay! Pat on the back to us, early birds!
Bring some snacks and lots of water, especially if you’re visiting when it’s hot out. if you have an overactive bladder like myself, then no worries on consuming lots of water. There are many easily accessible restrooms around. For snacks, on the drive to the Dam, you can load up in the Boulder city, which you will pass on your way to the Dam and for lunch out.
Kill two birds with one stone by arriving early, we got there at 10 am. Two hours at the Hoover dam is enough time to scope out the entire place. Now if you depart the Hoover Dam at around 1 pm, you have enough time to explore Red Rock Canyon before you head back to the strip! Driving from the strip to either one is a hassle so better to get it over with in one trip.