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Hoover Dam
by Patrick S. Cater

Greetings from beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada! I have been asked by ClevelandSeniors.com to write about Hoover Dam, and am more than happy to oblige.

After 4 months of residing in Las Vegas, I was finally able to cross-off "Visit the Dam" from my list of things to do. Let me tell you, the visit was quite a learning experience. (Which goes to show, you're never to old to learn something new)

Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam, named in honor of President Herbert Hoover, is located roughly 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, and I would highly recommend a trip to the dam to anyone visiting our city. The drive to the dam is really an enjoyable one, despite a couple of 180 degree turns as you approach the immediate area of the dam.

Construction began on 20 April 1931, with the first concrete for the actual dam being poured 6 June 1933. Surprisingly enough, it only took 1 week shy of two years to pour all the concrete. The last of the concrete was poured on 29 May 1935. The project was totally completed on 1 March 1936.

The total amount of concrete used in the building of the dam is 4,360,000 cubic yards. To put that in perspective, that's enough concrete to build a 2 lane highway from San Francisco to New York City.

It's total weight 6,600,000 tons, and measures 726 feet tall from the base to the roadway which crosses over the dam. The dam is also 660 feet thick at its base.

To say it's an awesome sight to behold is an understatement. One feels quite insignificant looking at such an awesome structure.

Hoover Dam

A total of 21,000 men worked on the project. Since the project took place during our countries "Great Depression" these employees came from all over the nation seeking work. The average wage at the time was 25 cents an hour, while the starting wage on the dam project was 50 cents an hour; so one can see why the project was so appealing to those seeking work.

In addition to their wages, the employees were also provided with their room and board. The workers, along with their families, resided in Boulder City, roughly 5 miles from the site of the dam. The work for them was plentiful: 12 hour shifts, 363 days a year (The only days off the employees were given were Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Given the magnitude of the project, I was surprised to learn that the "official" death toll was only 96 workers… plus one dog. The official death toll does not include to those individuals who were injured at the scene, and died later at a hospital. Also, contrary to popular folk lure, none of the workers are buried in the concrete of the dam.

As for the loss of the dog… a stray dog "adopted" the workers as its masters, and the site of the project as its home. Stories have it that the dog kept a protective eye on the workers, and even had its own lunch packed by the commissary that provided the human workers with their meals.

Sadly, towards the completion of the project, the dog decided to take a nap under a truck. The truck driver, not knowing their four legged friend was under the vehicle, backed the truck up, and ran over the dog. The workers, not wanting to be far from their furry coworker, buried the dog in a crypt on the property. The crypt is marked with a plaque, and is located opposite what is now the visitors center.

Hoover Dam at night

Located on the "upriver" side of the dam is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is the largest man made lake in the United States. The lake is 110 miles long, with an average depth of 500 feet. The lake contains enough water to bury the entire state of Pennsylvania in a foot of water. Considering the hatred Cleveland football fans have of those dreaded Steelers, I don't think that's such a bad idea!!!

Interestingly enough, one can cross the dam on foot, and in the process stand in 2 different states at once. The Arizona/Nevada state line splits the dam in half, and a flag marks the state boundary.

The dam also provides a great deal of electricity to 3 different states (Nevada, California, Arizona) and its capacity to do so is 2074 megawatts. There are 2700 miles of power lines between the power plant at the dam and LA.

Hoover Dam

The dam welcomes countless visitors on a daily basis, and sees some 20,000 vehicles travel the road which is on top of the dam. Citing security precautions in the wake of 9/11, there is a bypass being built downriver of the dam. The bypass is set to open sometime in 2008.

Also as a result of 9/11, the majority of the "behind the scenes" parts of the dam are now off limits to civilians, and the dam is patrolled by its own police force! (Yes, Virginia, there is a Boulder Dam Police Department) as well as armed security officers.

The only part of the behind the scenes tour open to the public is the power plant, which is actually a quite impressive area. Before being permitted to see the power plant section of the dam, visitors must pass through a security checkpoint which rivals those in place in our airports.

The Hoover Dam is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of the U. S. Department of the Interior.

Thank you for allowing me to share part of my "new" life here in Las Vegas. While I am now residing 2100 miles away, I will always consider myself a Clevelander.

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