Located about 25 mi/40 km southeast of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is an amazing feat of engineering as well as an impressive art-deco monument. Completed in 1935, this dam on the Colorado River provides power for an area extending from coastal Southern California to large portions of Nevada and Arizona. It also created Lake Mead, the sparkling blue lake that seems like a hallucination in the midst of the desert.
When approaching the dam from Las Vegas, you can glimpse the concrete face, but the canyon the dam sits in is too steep to allow a full view. A visitors center explains the full impact the dam has had on the Southwest, and a self-paced tour has replaced the guided and hard-hat tours of the power house.
On the outside, note the bas-relief sculptures on the dam bridge and the other buildings and the monument on the Nevada side of the bridge—they're fine examples of art-deco sculpture. The stars on the walk near the magnificent winged statues are a map of the constellations at the time the dam was completed. Be aware that Highway 93 runs across the top of the dam: We've seen sightseers stand in the middle of the road to gawk at the architecture.
Since 11 September 2001, certain vehicles are no longer allowed to drive across the top of the dam, including 18-wheelers, commercial buses with luggage, moving vans, vehicles carrying flammable or hazardous materials and vehicles with cargo that cannot be inspected. Passenger vehicles, commercial buses without luggage and recreational vehicles that can be inspected are still allowed to cross. However, a four- lane suspension bridge is being built across the gorge. Visitors to the dam during the bridge's construction will get a glimpse of the difficulties the original construction workers faced.
Lake Mead is one of the largest artificial lakes in the hemisphere, with 550 mi/885 km of shoreline. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area (which also encompasses parts of the Colorado downriver from the dam) provides opportunities for watersports (boating, swimming, fishing and scuba diving) and dry-land recreation (camping and hiking). Houseboat excursions are especially popular on Lake Mead, and several marinas in Nevada rent them, including Las Vegas Bay, Lake Mead and Callville Bay Marinas (on the western end of the lake, not far from Hoover Dam) and Overton Beach and Echo Bay Marinas (both near the town of Overton). Houseboats are also available at Temple Bar Marina in Arizona and at Cottonwood Cove and Katherine Landing Marinas on Lake Mohave, south of Hoover Dam.
For more information, visit the Web sites at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam and http://www.nps.gov/lame.
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