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Hoover Dam – USA

The Hoover Dam was one of America's finest engineering achievements in the 20th century.  What makes it even more remarkable were its fast pace of construction, innovation in design, and the fact that such a structure was built during the height of the Great Depression.


The Boulder Dam project was originally slated for the Boulder Canyon on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.  Later the site was moved to Black Canyon and the name was changed to reflect its founder: President Herbert Hoover.  Part politics and part demand, the dam was important in that it could generate thousands of jobs (due to its sheer size) and because it would help stabilize the west with flood control, irrigation water, and hydroelectric power.

Construction moved at a frantic pace between April 1931 and March 1936.  Throughout the span of construction over 100 workers died of heat exhaustion and carbon monoxide inhalation within the massive by-pass tunnels.  More workers died in the dangerous mountaineering work along the cliff face though the hard hat was developed during the project to help prevent this.


The Hoover Dam is the tallest concrete gravity-arch dam in the Western Hemisphere.  Standing at the top of the dam you will feel a sense of awe and insignificance.  At the bottom of the dam, it's 660 feet in thickness.  At the top, it tapers off to 45 feet.  Within the structure are 4.36 million yards of concrete that's still drying to this day.  The reservoir created behind the damn is known as Lake Mead, and houses about 46 trillion cubic yards of water (35 cubic kilometers!), making it the biggest artificial reservoir in America.

Overall, the design of the dam is somewhat Art Deco, giving it a strange grace despite its massive hulking features.  Each year about 10 million people visit the dam and the entire Lake Mead Recreation Area.  It is the 5th most popular national park in the States.

Part of the US Route 93 actually goes across the top of the dam, but be advised that there is often heavy traffic in the area.  If you haven't been to see the Hoover Dam yet, it's a great stop in a region full of expansive wilderness and the nearby Grand Canyon is a great way to augment any trip in the region.