<< Day 12: I Can See Time! | Day 14: Viva Las Vegas and Home! >>
Just Take the Dam Tour
We woke this morning to the sound of hundreds of small birds chirping. The musical notes were coming from a tall wall of bushes nearby.
Genevieve and Sebastian ran over to the playground to climb and slide before we started our drive. The playground was small, but the enjoyment factor was high.
Sebastian at the top of the slide . . . :
. . . and shooting out of the bottom:
We were heading north today toward Las Vegas, with a stop at Hoover Dam. We had traveled the first section of the road last week when we visited the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
At the base of the hills to our right, we could see the large overburden dumps from a mine.
We ventured off the road to visit the former mining town of Chloride.
According to a roadside historic marker, Chloride was founded in 1863, with a few mines in the surrounding hillsides. By 1900, the town had about 2000 residents, with more than 50 mines nearby.
The current population was about 350 people, who seemed to delight in the accumulation of eclectic metal objects.
The objects were sometimes attached together to form sculpture.
A large rock Santa had a jumbo hat:
One corner was covered with a wall of western characters:
The old gas station had railroad tracks that swept across the front:
The post office has been here since 1873:
This small home was for sale:
Another cute home:
The town’s flair for whimsical items extended to the cemetery:
We wandered through, looking at all of the different items and paying our respects to those who were buried here.
This grave must be the resting place for a motorcycle enthusiast--it had a small rusted motorcycle tank and some rims:
One cross was decorated with horseshoes and other items, with a bucking bronco on top:
Other graveyard items:
Genevieve and Sebastian:
This beautiful tree was in the cemetery:
Back on the road, heading north toward Vegas, we passed this billboard advertising automatic weapons.
(We didn’t try one.)
A small community stretched across the desert:
We started climbing the mountains that lie between Arizona and Nevada:
We began passing large dump trucks and other road construction vehicles, and saw large flattened stretches where a new road was being built.
The current 2-lane road snakes through the mountains and crosses over into Nevada along the top of the Hoover Dam. (Yes, the top of the dam has a road on it.) Because of traffic congestion, combined with federal security concerns about someone driving across the dam with explosives, a new 4-lane bypass is being constructed that routes traffic away from the dam on a high bridge. The new road also cuts a straighter sweep through the mountains.
Ahead was a section that will take eliminate a lot of curves by taking traffic straight over a small canyon:
Before reaching the dam, we had to stop and allow some federal police to come aboard the RV, as well as to search our exterior storage bins, to make sure that we weren’t carrying explosives or other illegal items.
With a big thumbs up from the inspection agents, we proceeded to the dam.
We were planning to take a tour of the dam, and Genevieve and Sebastian were very excited:
The Hoover Dam blocks off the Colorado River and creates Lake Mead, which stretches for over 100 miles behind the dam.
The white color along the rocks indicates how high the water was in the past. The large cylinders rising out of the water are the intake towers for the power plant.
We could see the continuing construction on the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge high in the air, behind the dam.
On the Lake Mead side of the dam was a huge spillway, designed to catch high rising water and channel it into a tunnel that goes through the rock canyon wall to the other side of the dam.
We walked across the top of the dam, stopping often to marvel at everything around us—the rocks, the dam, the intake towers, the bypass bridge, the lake . . . . Wow!
The dam is over 700 feet high. We all peeked over the edge. Here is Genevieve:
The cement dam wall was humongous:
At the bottom was the powerhouse area, where the electricity is generated.
In the middle of the dam was a marker that not only declared the dam to be a “civil engineering marvel of the United States," but also marked the dividing line between the states of Arizona and Nevada.
Another view of the dam wall:
A rectangular cement building now houses exhibits, but it once served as the headquarters for soldiers who guarded Hoover Dam during World War II.
Two 30-foot statues, called the Winged Figures of the Republic, sat beside a flagpole:
The artist, Oskar Hansen, wanted the figures to express “the immutable calms of intellectual reason,” “the enormous power of trained physical strength, and the “triumph of scientific accomplishment.”
Nearby is a commemorative plaque honoring the 96 men who died while helping to build the dam.
We took an escalator underground to the security checkpoint and ticket booth, where we purchased tickets for one of the dam tours. We chose the Power Plant tour, as Sebastian was only 7 and did not meet the 8-year old age requirement for the longer Hoover Dam tour (which covered the power plant but also included passageways within the dam itself).
After purchasing our tickets, we were ushered into a small theater, where we watched a 10-minute film about the history of the dam. Here are some of the things we learned:
--The dam was built from 1931 to 1935. The first step was diverting the Colorado River from its course. Four long tunnels were drilled through the rock canyon walls so that the river could flow temporarily around the dam area.
--The Great Depression was occurring, and the dam project employed an average of 3500 workers who worked 7 days a week for $4 a day; 3 shifts rotated around the clock, with two days of rest each year.
--The dam was initially called Boulder Dam, but the name was changed in 1947 to honor Herbert Hoover, who was President from 1929 to 1933.
--The dam used enough concrete to make a 4-foot sidewalk around the equator.
We then met our guide, Dave, who enthusiastically proclaimed that he hoped we would enjoy our “dam tour.”
He put just enough emphasis on the word “dam” to make the children look up at us with big eyes that questioned whether they had just heard a “potty word.” This play on words would be repeatedly continually throughout the tour, each time followed by a big smile from Dave and snickers from our fellow tour members.
“Let’s continue with this dam tour, shall we?!”
We then descended 530 feet in an elevator and took a short walk to the Penstock Viewing Platform. We looked through a large window and could see that we were on top of a pipe.
This pipe is 30-feet in diameter. Along with three other pipes, it funnels 880,000 gallons of water per second from Lake Mead to a series of smaller, 13-foot diameter pipes that lead to the dam’s hydroelectric generators. There was a large diagram of the dam, with its tunnels and pipes so that we could understand the process better.
We rode another elevator up a short distance and then walked through a rock tunnel.
At the end was the Nevada power plant, with a room containing 8 huge generators; each had a 34 ton turbine turning 60 miles per hour.
The generators are 70 feet tall and extend under the floor.
Genevieve and Sebastian in the turbine room:
The terrazzo floors in the balcony area were installed in 1936. An artist named Allen True had created patterns that contained elements of Art Deco and Southwestern Native American designs.
Mr. True had also picked out the rich red color for the exterior of the generators.
We were then free to explore the exhibit area upstairs. There were many photos and displays that were full of information. We learned that the dam’s main purpose is to provide water for many communities, such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The release of water from the lake generates electricity.
One of Genevieve and Sebastian’s favorite parts was an interactive exhibit in which they created electricity to run various household items by turning a crank—the more they cranked, the more items they could turn on. They had to turn the crank really fast to run multiple items at the same time.
An elevated platform held a sculpture called “The Bronze Turbine” by artist Lauri Slenning.
The panels represent the blades of a turbine, with relief images modeled after the artwork found on the dam’s elevators. (You can see more of Lauri Slenning's sculpture on her website.)
Genevieve and Sebastian liked the sculpture, and they also liked the open space around the platform—without crowds, there was freedom to move all of their body parts and be silly.
We exited onto the Observation Deck for a fabulous view. Here is a picture showing the location of the deck, on top of the cylinder of cement that is attached to the brown building:
Ben on the deck:
Here I am, with Genevieve and Sebastian:
The expansive dam stretched to our left. Sebastian peeked over the edge of the wall:
To our right was the new bridge:
A small cage was carrying some workers along a wire high up in the air:
I don’t think anyone could pay me enough money to work on this bridge. I used to think that I was completely fine with heights until I went bungee jumping about 15 years ago. (I did eventually step off of the platform, but it took every bit of courage I had.)
The exhibit area had some drawings of how the completed bridge will look:
Returning to the parking lot, we walked back across the Arizona state line.
On the road again, heading west, we drove over the top of the dam and entered Nevada.
Here was the inspection station for vehicles traveling east across the dam:
One last look at Lake Mead:
Beyond the electrical wires, we could see some large homes that had a lake view:
Soon, the Las Vegas skyline appeared against the distant mountains.
Just south of Vegas, we passed the South Hills Community Church, with its motto “Making Jesus Famous.”
We were staying tonight at the Circus Circus KOA. We entered “the Strip” where many of the casinos were located:
Our “campground” was basically a large parking lot, with some amenities, but we were happy.
Circus Circus has a small amusement park inside, so we wandered over there after dinner.
First, Genevieve and Sebastian chose a ride that spun them up and down:
Then they rode around and around:
And then they had to go upside down (I joined them for this experience!):
This was Sebastian’s first loop-de-loop roller coaster, and he loved it! So much, in fact, that he went four times!
On wobbly legs, but with huge smiles, Genevieve and Sebastian made their way back to the RV tonight. There would be more fun tomorrow!
<< Day 12: I Can See Time! | Day 14: Viva Las Vegas and Home! >>
Back to Index Page
Back to Home Page