If you are in Vegas, you really should make a visit to the Hoover Dam. It is a great day trip if you need a break from the bright lights of Vegas or a good stop if, like us, you are on your way out to the Grand Canyon.
This essential travel guide will provide all the information you need to plan your own visit to the Hoover Dam, including a map. Discover how to get there from Las Vegas and what to expect to see and do at the Hoover Dam. We organised our own trip, but you can see some great Hoover Dam Tour options here.
The Hoover Dam is a totally awesome structure. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the top 10 construction achievements of the 20th Century. It really is worth a visit, so use this guide to ensure you make the most of your time at the Dam.
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Getting to The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is approximately 35 miles out of Las Vegas and took us about 45 minutes to drive. You need to turn off the state route 172 and take the 2-miles access road to the dam.
The Hoover Dam bypass bridge
Before exploring the Hoover Dam itself we’d recommend stopping in the free parking lot for the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. At 880 ft high, this is the 2nd tallest bridge in the US and from here you can view the dam and gorge in their entirety.
The view confirms the immenseness of this concrete structure and is a great place to take a photo.
Crossing the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam actually lays on the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona and halfway across you can stand with a foot in both states.
We drove across the dam and used the free parking which is up the hill on the Arizona side. We then walked down the hill to cross the dam again on foot. You can also park in the lot on the Nevada side, but you will have to pay $10.
Top Tip: Take a water bottle as we found the heat at the dam absolutely stifling. However, there are water fountains to fill up on the dam.
As you cross the Hoover Dam, you can get a closer look at the Art Deco features on the lifts. There are good interpretive signs giving information about the history of the dam.
From the centre of the crossing we looked down to admire the dam. It is breathtakingly enormous and totally awesome.
The history of the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam started life as the Boulder Dam, but was renamed after President Herbert Hoover in 1947. It was constructed during the Great Depression, between 1931 and 1936. The dam has done a great job of holding back the Colorado River ever since.
The government built the Hoover Dam to control floods and to assist with water storage, irrigation and the generation of power. It really is a major feat of engineering and it’s no wonder it is one of the best tourist attractions in Nevada. To remind you of its awesomeness is a plaque declaring it’s “one of the 7 wonders of modern civil engineering in the world.”
About the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is 726 feet deep and weighs more the 6 million tonnes. The immense water pressure at the base of the dam is 45 000 pounds per square foot.
As well as being functional, the Hoover Dam is very beautiful and has lots of art deco features. On the Nevada side of the dam, there are two 30 ft bronze statues, “the Winged Figures of the Republic”. These angel-like figures proudly guard the portal to the Hoover Dam.
They surround a 142-foot flagpole, which rises from a black polished base. Around the base is a terrazzo floor with Native American patterns in it.
Near to the statues is a commemorative plaque for the 96 workers who officially died whilst constructing the dam. The inscription says “they died to make the desert bloom”.
In addition, there are four towers sticking up from the top of the dam. The middle two are elevators and they are decorated with bas-relief. It’s all very decorative for such a functional structure.
The Visitors' Centre
When you get across the dam, there is a visitors’ centre. Here you’ll find a museum, with information about the local area, as well as the construction of the Hoover Dam.
Another option is to take one of 3 tours; the self-guided tour, the power plant tour or the dam tour. The latter tours give you the chance to go in the passageways inside the dam and walk through the inspection tunnels.
On the approach to the Hoover Dam you are also able to see Lake Mead. Lake Mead is a by-product of the Hoover Dam and is the 2nd largest reservoir in the USA. It is now America’s largest recreation area, with millions of visitors coming to swim, boat and fish.
In the waters of Lake Mead are the 4 Intake Towers (see picture above), which siphon water into the power plant.
Two towers stand in each state and on one of each is a clock, showing the time for that state. As we crossed the dam, the time was an hour different as we moved between Nevada and Arizona time.
After our visit we drove back over the dam and then over the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge to get one last view, before heading back to continue our road trip to the Grand Canyon.
We loved our visit to the Hoover Dam. Photos could not have prepared us for the awesomeness of this engineering marvel.
Pin for Later: A visit to the Hoover Dam