A Landmark Worth Visiting



OK, I have to admit it. When the hubby first started talking about going to the Hoover Dam, I wasn’t thrilled. Still…he likes big things, things with lots of power. So we went. And I was impressed.


According to the brochure we received:

Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. In 1999, it was named the number five construction achievement of the 20th century.

Hoover Dam was built during the Depression to control the flooding of the Colorado River, which flows from the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of California. Before its building, there was often flooding in the spring and a severe lack of water later in the year. The Colorado River flows through seven states, so before it could be managed, those states had to agree on how its waters would be divided. This was accomplished with the signing of the Colorado River Compact in 1922.

Work on Hoover Dam began in 1931. I believe our guide said there were 3500 workers, divided over three shifts. The equipment these men worked with was HUGE. We saw a wrench that weighed 105 pounds and a picture of a guy (wish I had taken a picture!) holding a nut and bolt weighing 181 pounds in two hands, at arm’s length, as if it was nothing! By comparison, the lifting requirement for the railroad today is a mere fifty pounds. Despite all this heavy labor, the dam was completed in 1935, two years ahead of schedule and under budget.

The Nevada/Arizona state line runs right down the middle of the dam and there were two intake towers, one which showed Arizona time and another which showed Nevada time. The first place we were taken on our tour was a diversion tunnel where we could feel 80,000 gallons of water per second rushing under our feet in a thirty-six foot diameter pipe that fed the generator on Nevada’s side.

Then we went to the generator room. The center shaft of each generator was thirty six inches in diameter. I think our guide said there were seventeen of them. On the side where we were, five were working and three were shut down. The generators only make power for the states they serve, though. The dam doesn’t take the power for its operation from them. Instead, there are separate generators which provide power for the dam’s operation. As far as the allotment of the electricity from the dam, here’s the way it is distributed:

Arizona – 18.9527 percent
Nevada – 23.3706 percent
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – 28.5393 percent
Burbank, CA – 0.5876 percent
Glendale, CA – 1.5874 percent
Pasadena, CA – 1.3629 percent
Los Angeles, CA – 15.4229 percent
Southern California Edison Co. – 5.5377 percent
Azusa, CA – 0.1104 percent
Anaheim, CA – 1.1487 percent
Banning, CA – 0.0442 percent
Colton, CA – 0.0884 percent
Riverside, CA – 0.8615 percent
Vernon, CA – 0.6185 percent
Boulder City, NV – 1.7672 percent


I can’t go anywhere like Hoover Dam without wondering about the men who worked on it. Those were the Depression Years, something both my parents lived through. Where did the men come from? They only got two days off a year according to our guide. I’m sure they jumped at the wage, which was $.625 cents an hour, but how did they manage being away from their families? As a railroader’s wife, I know how it is to manage without your husband, but I never had to do it for four years!

The hubby was impressed with the amount of work that was done on the dam without the benefit of modern equipment. They did have cranes back then, but they were operated by steam. He was also impressed with the men. They did a whole lot of hand work! And the engineering for the project was precise, not what one would expect for the early 1900s. Being a railroader, the hubby was intrigued by the fact that materials for the dam arrived by rail. We couldn’t find any evidence of the old track beds, though. and what happened to the rock that was dug out? Did the workers crush it and use it for concrete? According to one display we saw, some of their aggregate was nine inches in diameter!

Like I said, I wasn’t real excited about visiting Hoover Dam, but I’m really glad I went. Those workers were of my grandparents’ generation. Some of the school kids dismiss my own childhood as being “back in the day,”but I think it would serve us all well to remember that if it were not for “back in the day,” the here and now might not be nearly as nice.




1 Response to “A Landmark Worth Visiting”

  1. 1 Adam Parker March 17, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    After a writeup like that I don’t know why anyone would have to go there, you summed it all up wonderfully.

    I had a great time out there a few weeks ago. I it had been a while and, thankfully, I had regained a little of my awe about how impressive a structure it is.

    Anyway, I have a few more shots here:

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