Before the construction of the Hoover Dam early last century, the mighty Colorado River frequently flooded countless acres of farmland in southern California and Mexico. A series of studies into how to tame the rampaging river led in 1928 to the Boulder Canyon Project Act and the subsequent construction of the dam. This colossus of concrete – a triumph of engineering – not only provides flood control and generates electricity, but is also a huge tourist attraction, with nearly a million visitors a year.
For a lasting first impression, stop at the overlook on Highway 93 as you approach the dam from Las Vegas. The vista point is often crowded, but stops anyway: the sight of 3.2 million cu yards (2.6 million cu m) of concrete, standing 727 ft (221 m) high and erected by thousands of workers laboring around the clock for four years, is truly awe-inspiring. Audiovisual and theater presentations as well as multimedia exhibits explain the processes and perils involved in building this eighth wonder of the modern world. An overlook on top of the center provides an eagle-eye view of the dam, Lake Mead, and the Black Canyon.
Self-guided tours lead to six points around the dam, where guides give short talks on the dam’s history and construction. The Bureau of Reclamation opened an impressive $125 million visitor center and parking lot in 1995. The three-level, circular center includes a rooftop overlook, a rotating theater, and a gallery. Here you can learn the fascinating story of the settlement of the lower Colorado River valley and find out about the amazing technology involved in the production and distribution of hydroelectric power. Thus, besides you can enjoy the holiday, you also can get the knowledge.