Have you always wanted to see the famed 60-story-tall Hoover Dam of the Colorado River? Built between 1931-1935, the Dam was the highest in the world at the time, using enough concrete to pave a road from New York to California to create a base as thick as the length of two football fields. Each spillway, which releases floodwaters, can handle the equivalent volume of water as that flowing over Niagara Falls.
The Hoover Dam Loop, an awesome motorcycle ride, covers the Hoover Dam and the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and interlinks with loops around Lake Mead.
It’s a short ride from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam, 40-45 miles depending on your starting point. Take I-215 E out of town, then take I-11 S/US 93 S to NV 172. Get off at Exit 2 for the Visitors Center, although there are multiple lots around the dam.
The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam itself is a modern engineering marvel. The concrete arch-gravity dam is 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet long, with a width at the base of 660 feet. The dam creates the reservoir of Lake Mead, spanning the width of the Colorado River.
The power plant provides power to the states of Nevada and Arizona and much of the greater Los Angeles area in California. Additionally, in 2017, the Hoover Dam Power Allocation Act of 2011 went into effect, which sets aside 5% of the generated electricity for use by Native American tribes, irrigation districts, electric cooperatives, and other previously unserved entities.
Park near the Hoover Dam and visit the Visitors Center to book one of several tour options. You can take a self-guided tour yourself through a limited area of the dam or enjoy a guided tour for lots of information about the dam’s history, engineering, and construction. Grab something to eat at the Hoover Dam Café. It’s pricey, but you will have to go back to Boulder if you want something else.
Stop at any of several Lookout points for photos of the dam, Lake Mead, and the Colorado River. Don’t miss out on side attractions like the Hoover Dam Boneyard, where you can see informational signs describing the function of specific parts of machinery. You can also find plaques, artwork, and memorials for workers who died during construction, as well as The Dog Who Owned a Dam.
The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge overlooks the Hoover Dam, where I-11 stretches across the Colorado River. Walk the bridge for photos of the dam, the Colorado River Canyon, and the power plant.
The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is the highest concrete arch bridge in the world, and the second-highest bridge in the U.S. Originally proposed in the 1960s, the bridge experienced several setbacks in approval, design, planning, and other steps of conceptualization. It was finally approved in 2001.
The bridge’s name salutes Mike O’Callaghan, former Governor of Nevada from 1971 to 1979, and Pat Tillman, who left a promising football career to enlist in the United States Army, where he was killed in action by friendly fire.
The bridge reroutes traffic from the top of the dam. Construction began in 2003 for the new approaches, and bridge construction began in 2005. The bridge opened late in 2010.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see this feat of engineering on a ride around the Hoover Dam Loop during your next visit to Las Vegas.
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