Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts

Petr Novák

Hoover Dam is located on the Colorado River near Las Vegas, and at the time of its opening it was the tallest dam and the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. The Hoover Dam has lost both of those firsts, but it has become a popular tourist attraction. Read on to find out how you can visit the bowels of the dam, how much it cost to build, and what eerie connections connect the first and last workers to die.

Hoover Dam | © Unsplash.com

  1. Table of Contents
    1. The History of Hoover Dam
    2. Height, Construction and Other Fun Facts About the Dam
    3. How to Visit Hoover Dam
    4. Photos of Hoover Dam

    The History of Hoover Dam

    Ideas for building a massive dam began to emerge in the late 19th century, but at first they were only vague proposals without concrete plans. It was not until 1922, when a committee was formed, that the project began to gain momentum. The idea was to prevent dangerous flooding from the Colorado River while harnessing the dam’s potential for generating electricity. Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce and future President of the United States, was in charge of the matter.

    The project, officially named Boulder Canyon, took another seven years to prepare. Plans included the construction of a new town, Boulder City, to house the workers involved in building the dam. In the early years of construction, the workers inhabited improvised tent cities, where the comfort of living was very low even by the standards of the time, leading to frequent protests.

    During August 1931, some of the dissatisfied workers went on strike to demand improved working conditions. The construction of the dam was several months ahead of schedule and the high demand for work during the severe economic crisis meant that the crisis was quickly averted. The average wage for workers was $5 per day, which converted to 2024 prices is equivalent to $91. Dangerous high-rise work was rewarded a little better, with brave workers able to earn $5.60 per day of work (in 2024 this would be $102).

    The total cost of building the Hoover Dam was $48,890,955 in 1922 dollars. After accounting for inflation, this amount would be $908,941,057 in 2024.

  2. Height, Construction and Other Fun Facts About the Dam

    The parameters of the dam are impressive – height 726 ft, length 1,244 ft, width 656 ft at the foot and 46 ft at the top. Hoover Dam holds 2.5 million cubic meters of water, which is about the same amount that flows through the Colorado River in two years.

    The dam opened on September 30, 1935, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in attendance. Interestingly, although the plans already referred to it as Hoover Dam, its official name at the time of commissioning was Boulder Dam. The name Hoover refers to US President Herbert Hoover, who ironically did not even receive an invitation to the opening ceremony. The renaming to Hoover Dam did not take place until 1947.

    During the construction of the Hoover Dam, 112 people died, and there is a cruel coincidence connected to this. J.G. Tierney was the first to die on December 20, 1922, while field surveying. The last to die was his son, Patrick W. Tierney, who fell from the intake tower.

    The concrete of the Hoover Dam was being poured in a specific way. During planning, engineers calculated that if concrete were poured continuously into the structure, it would heat up enough to cool to ambient temperature for the next 125 years. So instead, they brought 215 precast concrete blocks of various sizes to the site.

  3. How to Visit Hoover Dam

    🗺️ Where Hoover Dam Is Located

    Hoover Dam is located on the Colorado River at the border of Nevada and Arizona, adjacent to I-93. Lake Mead is in close proximity, and the nearest city is Boulder City with a population of approximately 15,000.

    🚗 How to Get to Hoover Dam

    The Strip in Las Vegas is a 37 mi drive, which can be done in about 40 minutes. Access directly to the dam is via Nevada State Route 172. The dam is not accessible by car towards Arizona, you always have to drive back to Nevada.

    Approximately 1.00 mi before the dam itself, there is a checkpoint that must always be passed. It is open 24 hours a day, and in addition to checking your personal documents, be prepared to have your car inspected. We first arrived at the dam at 1:30 in the morning (don’t ask why), which might have aroused suspicion. Security checked the interior of the car, the luggage compartments, and the undercarriage with mirrors. After that, they let us in without any problems.

    The closest parking lot to the dam is in the state of Nevada, with a one-time fee of $10.00 (updated May 2024). There is no parking directly on the dam. The more remote parking areas are free, but be prepared for a longer walk.

    🕒 Opening Hours

    Hoover Dam is open 24 hours a day, free of charge.

    The visitor center inside the dam is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.; hours may vary throughout the year. For up-to-date information, I recommend visiting the dam’s official website.

    🎟️ Hoover Dam Tickets

    You can pay for guided tours at the visitor center, available in two options. Available capacity fills up quickly, I recommend signing up for tours early in the morning. I last updated these prices on May 9, 2024.

    The power station tour takes you into the original construction tunnels, visits the dam’s observation deck and views the 8 generators of the power station. The cost of the tour is $15.00 per person.

    A more expensive option is a guided tour of the entire dam. In it, you’ll visit the original tunnels, take an elevator ride to the top of Hoover Dam, see the Colorado River through the vent shaft, and tour the powerhouse included in the previous tour. Cost is $30 per person.

    🚌 Tours to Hoover Dam From Las Vegas

    If you don’t have a rental car in Las Vegas, you can pay for an organized trip to Hoover Dam. It is offered in various forms by a number of companies, always includes a bus ride from the Strip, and lasts between 3-5 hours depending on the program.

    The advantage of an organized trip is that you are completely taken care of. You will be provided with transportation, tickets and a guide is available to answer your questions. The disadvantage is the higher price compared to going on your own. Personally, I would still mind traveling in a group of people.

    If you don’t mind traveling in a group and want to save money, I recommend getting the Go City Pass Las Vegas. It’s essentially a permanent pass that allows you to visit attractions in and around Las Vegas without paying anything extra. It’s sold in a 2-5 day option, during which you can save hundreds of dollars compared to regular ticket prices.

    One of the included attractions on the Go City Pass is a trip to the Hoover Dam from Las Vegas. In addition, you can experience a helicopter flight over the Strip, ride the Big Apple Coaster, see the view from the Eiffel Tower and the roof of The Strat, or ride the giant High Roller bike at no additional cost.

  4. Photos of Hoover Dam

    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Unsplash.com
    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Unsplash.com
    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Unsplash.com
    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Unsplash.com
    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Image by grunzibaer from Pixabay
    Hoover Dam: Tours, Must-Knows, and Fun Facts | © Lindsey B / Flickr.com

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