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Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is a concrete gravity-arch dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Arizona and Nevada. The dam, located 48 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Las Vegas, is named after President Herbert Hoover. The Hoover Dam was built by Six Companies, Inc., under Frank Crowe . Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1936, two years, one month and twenty eight days, ahead of schedule. Lake Mead is the reservoir created behind the dam, named after Elwood Mead who oversaw the construction of the dam.



Hoover Dam Visitors Center
Hoover Dam Visitors Center

Built during the Great Depression, over 100 workers died during the construction of the four diversion tunnels and dam, which were not ventilated. Crews of "icebox men" would run into the tunnels and wrap heat-afflicted workers in ice to try and cool them down, but this would often not be enough. Many of the workers' wives and children also died from the extreme heat and lack of sanitation they had to endure in the squalid camps like Ragtown which quickly grew around the dam site. Six Companies, Inc. was contracted to build a new town for construction workers, to be called Boulder City, but Frank Crowe preferred to concentrate efforts on the tunnels and dam. Crowe was fearful of winter floods and the financial penalties he would suffer if the project fell behind schedule. However, discontent with Ragtown and the dangerous working conditions led to a strike on August 8 1931. Six Companies responded by sending in strike-breakers with guns and clubs, and the strike was soon quashed. But the discontent prompted the authorities to speed up the construction of Boulder City, and by the spring of 1932 Ragtown had been deserted. [1]

The dam was designed to control floods; to store water for irrigation, municipal, and industrial use; and to generate hydroelectric power. Generators at the Dam's Hoover Powerplant began to transmit electricity from the Colorado River a distance of 266 miles (364 km) to Los Angeles, California on October 9, 1936. Additional generating units were added through 1961. The seventeen main turbines at this powerhouse generate 2,074 megawatts of hydroelectric power. The dam and powerplant are operated by the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation.

In addition to its economic and engineering renown, Hoover Dam is accounted a masterpiece of Art Deco design.


U.S. Highway 93 on Hoover Dam
U.S. Highway 93 on Hoover Dam
  • Construction period: April 20, 1931 - March 1, 1936
  • Construction cost: $165 million
  • Dam Height: 726.4 ft (221.4 m), highest in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Dam Thickness: 660 ft (200 m) at its base; 45 ft (15 m) thick at its crest.
  • Concrete: 4.36 million yards³ (3.64 million )
  • Traffic across the dam: 13,000 to 16,000 people each day, according to the Federal Highway Administration
  • Lake Mead surface area: 247 square miles (637 km²), backing up 110 miles (177 km) behind the dam.
  • Lake Mead water volume: approximately 46,000,000,000 yd³ (35.2 km³), or 28.5 million acre-feet; nearly 2 years of average Colorado River flow; largest man-made reservoir in the USA.
  • Lake Mead shoreline: 550 miles (885 km)
  • With 8 to 10 million visitors each year, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the 5th busiest national park in the USA, according to the National Park Service.

The naming controversy

The dam, originally planned for a location in Boulder Canyon, was relocated to Black Canyon for better impoundment, but was still known as the Boulder Dam project. Work on the project started on July 7, 1930. At the official beginning of the project on September 17, 1930, President Hoover's Secretary of the Interior Ray L. Wilbur, announced the name as Hoover Dam. Hoover was already campaigning for re-election in the face of the Depression and sought credit for creating jobs.

Hoover did not win, and on May 8, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, renamed the dam Boulder Dam. The intent was to deny Hoover credit, though the dam had been begun in his administration. Finally, on April 30, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed legislation restoring the name Hoover Dam.

Crooked pylons of outgoing powerlines

Because the transformer station of Hoover Dam is placed in the narrow valley of Colorado river, it was not easy to find a right of way for the powerlines leaving it. Therefore some crook pylons have been built close to the valley, which are inclined considerably to the vertical (see picture).

(More technical data is welcome!)

Colorado River system
Dams and aqueducts (see U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)
Shadow Mountain Dam | Granby Dam | Glen Canyon Dam | Hoover Dam | Davis Dam | Parker Dam | Palo Verde Diversion Dam | Imperial Dam | Laguna Dam | Morelos Dam | Colorado River Aqueduct | San Diego Aqueduct | Central Arizona Project Aqueduct | All-American Canal | Coachella Canal | Redwall Dam
Natural features
Colorado River | Rocky Mountains | Colorado River Basin | Sonoran desert | Mojave desert | Imperial Valley | Colorado Plateau | Grand Canyon | Glen Canyon | Marble Canyon | Paria Canyon | Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez | Salton Sea
Dirty Devil River | Dolores River | Escalante River | Gila River | Green River | Gunnison River | Kanab River | Little Colorado River | Paria River | San Juan River | Virgin River
Major Reservoirs
Fontenelle Reservoir | Flaming Gorge Reservoir | Taylor Park Reservoir | | Navajo Reservoir | Lake Powell | Lake Mead | Lake Havasu
Dependent states
Arizona | California | Colorado | Nevada | New Mexico | Utah
Designated areas
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area | Lake Mead National Recreation Area

External links

  • Hoover Dam's official website
  • Structurae: Hoover Dam
  • BBC - Hoover Dam, industrial and social history
  • Hoover Dam page
  • Maps and aerial photos
    • Street map from Mapquest
    • Topographic map from Topozone
    • Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver

Last updated: 02-07-2005 07:16:18
Last updated: 03-02-2005 13:07:19