Hoover Dam, located on the Arizona-Nevada border, was the largest concrete structure in the world--not to mention the biggest electric-power generating station on the planet--when it was completed in 1936. Even today, the dam remains one of the world's largest hydroelectric stations and a major tourist attraction. There's a lot to do at Hoover Dam--designated a National Historical Landmark in 1985--apart from simply beholding a very big concrete wall.
Ride the Elevator
That's right--Hoover Dam is home to a very scenic elevator. It ascends and descends a full 530 feet, straight down the rock wall of the Black Canyon. The elevator begins at the top of the canyon, near the Hoover Dam Theater, and ends near the bottom of the canyon, where tours typically begin. You are only a short distance from the breathtaking view afforded by the Penstock Viewing Platform.
Tour the Power Plant
Touring Hoover Dam's massive power plant, you'll see the plant's four large water pipes (each 30 feet in diameter and channeling almost 100,000 gallons of water per second). The plant is also home to 17 generators, eight accessible to the public for viewing--they require another elevator ride to reach. Finally, explore the plant's extensive inspection galleries, a set of tunnels that wind deep down into the concrete structure; you'll pass air ducts that afford limited peeks of the outside, feel the cool breeze generated by the river far beneath your feet, and look for markings left by inspectors over past decades.
See the Visitor's Center
Don't miss Hoover Dam's Visitor's Center, which offers a number of exhibits and displays that tell the story not only of the dam, but of the river system and area history. You'll learn how the dam works, how electricity is made from water power and how and why the dam was constructed. There are exhibits and presentations in many forms, including audio, visual and interactive.
Article Written By William Jackson
William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.