I first saw the iconic Dam in person when we flew over it on our way to the Grand Canyon a few days earlier. It is a pretty spectacular feat of human engineering. We were told that there was enough cement in the Dam to put a sidewalk around the equator! It’s actually as wide as it is thick at the bottom too!
It’s construction was authorised in 1928, and construction started in 1931 and was completed two years ahead of schedule in 1936. The workers lived in Boulder City (near where we had been Zip Lining from the top of Red Mountain a few days previously). I was pretty shocked to learn that they had only been allowed 2 days off per year (Christmas Day and the 4th July)! It was actually pretty cool to have a look around the inside of the Dam and understand how this huge construction has brought order from chaos and sustainable life-giving water to seven states fed by the Colorado River… Not only that, but it generates a huge amount of clean sustainable energy through its hydro-generators.
The swirls in the Colorado river below the Dam (as seen in the picture above left) are actually caused by the generators. One thing I did find scary is that because of over consumption of water, and using water that simply doesn’t exist, the water level in Lake Mead has dropped by around 100 FEET! The white mark you can see around the perimeter of the lakes is where the water level used to be! What I found most scary was that our guide told us that if water consumption continues at it’s current rate, the Colorado river could actually run DRY in as few as 10 years! The white mark is actually where the water had bleached the mountains and rocks surrounding the lake.
I may be wrong, but I somehow doubt this would happen here in the UK… Despite having a massive rain fall every year, if our water drops, the local councils immediately impose hosepipe bans etc… From what I learned, it seems that State politics is more complicated. Each of the 7 states that the Colorado and Lake Mead sustain (Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming) seem to be more concerned with ensuring their own individual consumption needs than worrying about sustaining the water for the greater good of all of them.
Once outside, we walked along the swelteringly hot road along the top of the Dam. You could actually stand with one foot in Arizona and one in Nevada which I thought was cool…
We also managed to have a walk along the foot path of the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge that opened in October last year.