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8 Powerful Facts You Didn't Know About Hoover Dam

Posted by GrayLineLasVegas on February 4, 2020

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Hoover Dam is a massive concrete structure built on the border between Arizona and Nevada. It controls the flow of the Colorado River and is responsible for the creation of the giant scenic reservoir of Lake Mead. Did you know that the dam is only about 30 minutes from Las Vegas and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the southwest? Well, here are some more fun facts you may not know about Hoover Dam:

1. Hoover Dam Wasn’t Just Built To Supply Power

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Hoover Dam was actually constructed for multiple reasons. For one, it was built in an effort to help control flooding of the Colorado River as it snaked through the southwest on its way to the Gulf of California.

Also, as the west opened up and more people settled there, the need for water increased. The dam was engineered to help divert water to areas the river otherwise passed. Lastly, of course, the dam was constructed to provide hydroelectric power to millions of nearby residents—and still does to this day!

2. Hoover Dam Is Massive

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Imagine a four-foot-wide sidewalk wrapped completely around the Earth at the equator. That’s a lot of concrete! That’s how much concrete it took to build the Hoover Dam. It’s amazing when you think about it. The dam is 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet long. That’s almost a quarter of a mile.

At its base, the dam is a whopping 660 feet thick. That’s longer than two football fields stretched end-to-end! At its top, Hoover Dam is 45 feet thick. That may seem thin compared to its massive base, but it’s still nearly as wide as a four-lane highway.

3. Hoover Dam Wasn’t Always Called Hoover Dam

When surveyors were first scouting locations for the site of Hoover Dam, they recommended Boulder Canyon, just upriver from the dam’s current location. This led the team working on the dam to call it Boulder Dam. Later, when the construction site was moved to Black Canyon, the name stuck and the dam continued to be called Boulder Dam.

So how did it come to be called Hoover Dam? In September 1930, construction began on a railroad line that would terminate at the dam site. During the groundbreaking ceremony for the line, it was announced that the new dam would be named for the then president, Herbert Hoover.

4. Building Hoover Dam Created An Entire City

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Speaking of places named Boulder, you may not know that Nevada’s Boulder City didn’t exist before the Hoover Dam project. In fact, the city was built in 1930 solely to house the 5,000 workers employed to build the dam.

Boulder City was constructed on federal land and had no local mayor or other elected officials. Oddly enough, the entire city was managed by an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. This person had the power to institute rules as he saw fit. Some of Boulder City’s early statutes even banned gambling and the consumption of alcohol. It wasn’t until 1960, thirty years after the city’s initial construction, that the federal government surrendered control, and Boulder City was officially incorporated.

5. As Many As 138 Workers Died During Construction

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Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936, and those five years were not without disaster. Reports from the construction site list 96 deaths due to accidents. In addition, 42 workers were reported to have died from illnesses while the dam was being built.

However, today some historians believe that it was exposure to carbon monoxide in construction tunnels resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning, which actually caused these additional deaths. It’s important to note that despite some dark legends about Hoover Dam, no one was buried alive as the 4.3 million yards of concrete were poured.

6. The Nazis Plotted To Blow Up Hoover Dam During WWII

In November 1939, before America entered World War II, U.S. officials learned of a Nazi plan to blow up Hoover Dam. Destroying Hoover Dam would have had the disastrous effect of cutting off critical electrical power to southern California’s bustling and crucial airplane manufacturing industry.

To combat further attempts on the dam, U.S. authorities imposed restrictions on boats allowed into Black Canyon and employees who worked at the dam. Following the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, Hoover Dam was closed to all visitors until the war ended in 1945.

7. Hoover Dam’s Construction Started During A Heat Wave

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Work started in April 1931. That summer, Southern Nevada sweltered through record-breaking temperatures for months. By June, just two short months into construction, the average daily temperature was reaching a high of 119 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because ventilation was limited in the vast tunnels being build for the dam, it’s reported that conditions within the tunnels were much worse. The workers in the deepest parts of the tunnels worked in temperatures between 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months! Understandably, many of the workers suffered heatstroke on multiple occasions.

8. Las Vegas Bid To Be the Project’s Headquarters

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Las Vegas, also known today as Sin City, wanted to be the place where the Hoover Dam project established its headquarters. In 1930, Las Vegas was not the glittering metropolis we know today, but it still had a reputation for being a wild west party town that could pose a debaucherous distraction for those employed to build the dam.

When the U.S. Secretary of the Interior visited Las Vegas in 1929, the city’s mayor cracked down on the local goings-on. He shut down several brothels and speakeasies in an effort to lend the city an air of class. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out and Boulder City was built to house the workers and headquarters for the Hoover Dam project.

Hoover Dam Tours From Las Vegas

It’s clear Hoover Dam is one of America’s wonders and truly an engineering marvel. Today, the dam is a thriving tourist destination on top of being a functioning power plant. It offers stunning views and fascinating insight, and each year nearly 7 million people visit the dam to snap selfies and experience its grandeur.

And the best part? Hoover Dam is just a short ride from the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. If you’d like to see Hoover Dam for yourself, Gray Line Las Vegas offers multiple Hoover Dam tour options that will pick you up directly from your Las Vegas hotel. You’ll also have a chance to visit Lake Mead, the fabulous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and other exciting spots for photo opportunities along the way. Contact Gray Line today to learn more about our Hoover Dam tours.

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