There are bigger dams with more impressive stats and higher water flow rates. But Hoover Dam continues to fascinate and attracts million of visitors each year. Perhaps it has to do with its proximity to Las Vegas which is only 30 minutes north of the dam. Perhaps because of its dramatic setting in a deep gorge on the Colorado River. Maybe it’s because the dam was built during the depths of the US recession.
Construction began in 1931 and offered jobs and hope to thousands of workers. The construction itself and the achievement it represented sent a strong signal that even though the US economy was on the ropes its spirit and ingenuity was not dead. The project was completed in only 4 years, ahead of schedule and UNDER budget. This included the digging of four 50 foot diameter tunnels through the canyon walls, 2 on each side of the river, with a combined length of just over 3 miles . These tunnels were initially needed to divert the flow of the river during construction. Subsequently they are used for the flow of water to the turbines that generate electric power.
We took the power plant tour which involved descending by elevator some 530 feet to the base of the dam where the giant turbines are located. Everything about the scale of the dam is difficult to imagine. For example, there is 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete in the dam and another 1,100,000 cubic yards in the power plant and appurtenant works. The concrete is over 600 feet thick at the base of the dam. This much concrete could have required up to 100 years to cool. In order to speed up the cooling, they embedded 582 miles of 1 inch steel pipe in the concrete and circulated ice water through it from a refrigeration plant that could produce 1,000 tons of ice every 24 hours.
Hoover Dam was one of the highlights of our trip (photos) to Las Vegas during the week of February 12, 2012. In some of the photos it may appear that we are cold. That’s because it WAS cold. Especially the wind at the dam was particularly biting. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. While we were there, Motley Crue were performing at the Hard Rock so the crowd was peppered with rockers of all ages. It was a good trip and we enjoyed it as a nice Valentine’s Day getaway.
- Hoover dam continues curing even after 76 years (civilconstructionresourcez.wordpress.com)