Ramble On

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Inside Hoover Dam (aka - The Dam Tour)

This is only one side of the turbine room.
After we had a look at the new bypass bridge and looked down at Hoover Dam from a height of around 900 feet, we continued down the serpentine access road to check out this incredible engineering achievement.  As I drove the route, all I could think of was that this winding road was one the US Highway, and that it continued on across the dam, and that that was the route that people used to have to take to get through the area.  The traffic jams must have been constant!

We finally arrived at the visitors center and booked our tour down into the power plants and tunnels.  The elevator ride itself is a minute long, with stops carefully choreographed to manage all the tourists making their way through the facilities. It was all a comedy act from there as our chaperon introduced himself as our dam guide and told us he would answer all of our dam questions.

Eventually, when we reached the lowest elevator station, we were told that the tunnels that we were walking in were part of the channel infrastructure that had to be built to reroute the river before the dam could start - these tunnels themselves took two years to build, the same amount of time the dam took!
A scale model illustrating the construction process.

We also had a look at the turbines in their cavernous room - it is hard to believe that the base of the dam is 600 feet wide, and it surrounds this area on both sides.

Some other interesting facts about the dam, which was built during the Depression but had been planned over the 20 or so years before:

  • The dam cost less than $50 million to build in the 1930's
  • It was estimated that residual heat from curing the concrete would remain for more than 100 years
  • The water in Lake Mead serves seven states - and provides a national recreation area as well

One of the inlet towers, showing the receding water level.
The calculus of population growth and rainfall and snowfall has meant receding water levels in Lake Mead.  In the photo of the inlet tower, the bleached out walls of the canyon above the water level are a testament to this problem - the water level has been in a constant state of retreat since the dam was first built.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying the tour and checking out the exhibits on the construction of the dam.  Then it was on to Flagstaff, which would be the base for our day trip up to the Grand Canyon.

1 comment:

Karl said...

Those really are some big dam turbines!