Last month, I was lucky enough to go out west with my husband, who had a business trip. I was able to work remotely on my trusty laptop by day, and see the sights of glitzy Las Vegas with him by night. However, the most striking part of the trip wasn’t in the gambling and nightlife capital of America, but instead our day trip to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. These took my breath away.
The pioneering spirit and determination of Americans to overcome physical and geographic challenges has made the USA into the great nation it is today. In my opinion, the Hoover Dam is a stunning example of this American phenomenon.
Before I visited this area, I was not aware that regular flooding by the unpredictable and dangerous Colorado River had caused misery for many years before the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation developed plans for this huge dam. The aim was to provide river control, as well as water and hydroelectric power for the developing the Southwest, but in order to achieve this, a truly magnificent feat of engineering for the early 20th century was needed.
I cannot completely communicate the immensity of this construction — I recommend that you visit it in person — but I can share some of the statistics:
• Situated on the Nevada-Arizona border, 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, and stretching 1,244 feet across the Black Canyon, the Hoover Dam took five years to construct.
• A total of 4.3 million cubic yards of concrete was used to build the dam, its power plant and auxiliary features. That is enough concrete to pave a 16-foot-wide, 8-inch-thick road from San Francisco to New York City, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
• When it was built, the Hoover Dam was the tallest dam in the world, rising 726 feet above the bedrock of the river and altering the geography of the whole region. Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, covering about 248 square miles. It is capable of holding some 9.4 trillion gallons of water. Lake Mead supplies water to Nevada, Arizona, California and New Mexico and, since 1964, has also been used for boating, fishing and swimming. Due to years of drought it is now at its lowest level ever.
• In the early 1930s, Boulder City, Nevada, was constructed to house 5,000 dam project workers. A total of 21,000 men worked on the dam; an average of 3,500 each day, with the daily figure peaking at more than 5,200 in June 1934.
• Hoover Dam’s power plant was the world’s largest hydroelectric station from 1939 to 1949. It has an capacity of 2,080 megawatts, and currently generates around 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power annually for homes and business in Nevada, Arizona and California.
The Hoover Dam was originally called the Boulder Dam, as it was going to be constructed at Boulder Canyon a few miles away. Even when it was moved to nearby Black Canyon, the original name stuck. In 1930, when construction began, it was announced that the dam would be named for President Herbert Hoover. However, he later became unpopular because many people blamed him for the Great Depression, so the name of Boulder Dam was used until 1947. Finally, President Harry Truman approved a congressional resolution that officially named the dam for Hoover.
I leave you with a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech at the dedication of the dam on Sept. 30, 1935, “This morning I came, I saw and I was conquered, as everyone would be who sees for the first time this great feat of mankind … This is an engineering victory of the first order — another great achievement of American resourcefulness, American skill and determination … well done.”
I could not agree more. God bless America!