Established: Dam opened in 1936; bypass bridge opened in 2010
Price: Free to enter
Dam height: 729 feet (second tallest in U.S.)
Dam volume: 3.25 million cubic yards
Location: 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas
Visitor center hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Parking: Two $10 pay lots; four small free lots
Power Plant Tour: $15 adults, $12 seniors/military
Dam Tour: $30 per person
Bypass bridge height: 900 feet
Shopping: Two gift shops
Note: Hoover Dam not opened to through traffic
Without the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas as we know it could not exist. The dam's turbine generators have provided electricity to the area for over 70 years, allowing those neon lights to shine bright on the Strip. It also impounds Lake Mead, the reservoir that turns Las Vegas into an oasis in the desert. Not only is the Hoover Dam a source of electricity for communities across the Southwest U.S., it’s a marvel of technology that makes for an excellent day trip.
Dedicated as a National Historical Monument in 1937, the Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936 with a workforce of over 21,000. Located just 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas in Black Canyon, the dam was designed to harness hydro-electric power, provide irrigation and control flooding.
The construction of the dam also created jobs during the Great Depression and allowed for population increases in Nevada. Boulder City, which is just minutes from the dam, was the original home base for these workers. There were 112 recorded worker fatalities associated with the construction of the dam. The Oskar J. W. Hansen memorial
stands at the Hoover Dam as a tribute to those who died. It reads “They died to make the desert bloom.”
When it was completed, the Hoover Dam allowed for the creation of Lake Mead, which is the largest man-made reservoir in the U.S. Lake Mead provides drinking water to Las Vegas, Phoenix and parts of Southern California.
Engineering buffs aren’t the only ones who can marvel at the effort required to build a dam of this size. The dam rises 726 feet high, making it the second tallest in the U.S. after the Oroville Dam in California. The mass of Hoover Dam is also impressive. It is 660 feet wide at the bottom and 45 feet wide across the rim where Highway 93 once crossed the Colorado River. Since the opening of the Mike O' Callaghan — Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in 2010, cars entering the Hoover Dam area from the Nevada side can still cross over Highway 93, park and tour the dam, but the road is now closed on the Arizona side.
What to See
View of the intake towers
Oskar J. W. Hansen memorial
Hoover Dam bypass bridge
The designers of the Hoover Dam placed an importance on aesthetics and artwork during construction. The iconic art deco intake towers
combine form and function to divert water down into the powerful turbine engines at the rate of 90,000 gallons of water per second. Outside of the visitor center, a pair of bronze statues named Winged Figures of the Republic
commemorate the lives lost during the building of the dam alongside the Hansen memorial. Inside the passageways of the dam, the decor is inspired by motifs of Navajo and Pueblo sand paintings, textiles, baskets and ceramics.
The official tours of Hoover Dam are offered by the Bureau of Reclamation and include the comprehensive Hoover Dam Tour, a $30 full tour of the dam spanning from the walkways of the intake towers and up-close views of the massive spillways down into the power plant itself on a 70-second 530-foot elevator ride. A shorter Power Plant Tour is $12 - $15 and includes just the power plant and access to the visitor center.
The visitor center houses various educational exhibits and interactive displays. The top floor of the center is an observation deck
and features a stunning view of Lake Mead complemented by an audio presentation of facts about the dam and its surroundings.
Perhaps the best view of the Hoover Dam comes from atop of the bypass bridge
. A technological marvel in its own right, this arch bridge is just north of the dam and connects Nevada with Arizona. Visitors to the dam can park near the base of the bridge and walk up paved steps to the top. This view lets guests see how truly massive the Hoover Dam is.
Dining & Shopping
When hunger strikes, grab a bite to eat at the High Scaler Café located next to the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of dam construction workers. Grab a burger and fries, or down the huge half-pound Hoover Dam Dog to join the ranks of those who can proudly wear a shirt proclaiming, "I ate the Dam Dog." You can also purchase books and other souvenirs nearby at the Hoover Dam Lookout Gift Shop, which is on the Arizona side of the Dam. There are also more shops and lots of dining options in nearby Boulder City.
Hours & Parking
Before reaching the Hoover Dam, all visitors must pass through a security checkpoint, which is open 24 hours a day. Guests cannot bring firearms or any other weapons into the Hoover Dam.
The parking garage opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 6:15 p.m. The visitor center is open from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the first tour is at 9:15 a.m. The last tour varies by season. Visit the Bureau of Reclamation website for additional information: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/service/index.html
Parking at the garage and the pay lot on the Arizona side costs $10. These lots are perfect for guests who don’t want to walk too far to explore the dam. There are also four small free lots on the Arizona side and another free lot near the bypass bridge on the Nevada side.