Melinda Gale

Fitness & Lifestyle

Wild, Wild West: Hoover Dam

“It should not be denied... that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West." - Wallace Stegner

I love the southwest. It all started when we took a road trip to The Grand Canyon when I was in elementary school. I itched to go back while reading "On The Road". My love grew when I first read "Into The Wild" and fell down the Chris McCandless rabbit hole . My fascination was completely solidified when I made the three thousand mile drive out to Los Angeles when I moved from North Carolina in 2009. Needless to say, I will look for any excuse I can to explore this region of the States. 

It's kind of the rule in my family that no matter what trip we go on, be it for work or pleasure, we have to do something educational. After countless family trips, I have finally adopted this ideology as my own. When Liz and I were leaving Las Vegas after our awesome stay at Green Valley Ranch Resort, we decided to take a detour and check out Hoover Dam. I have been with my family before (surprise) but thought it would be nice to let, *ahem* force, Liz experience it. 

Admission to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center is only $10 with Powerplant tours going for $15 and Dam tours for $30. Not wanting to give them all of our money, we decided on the Powerplant tour.  Parking is $10 and they take cards which is an extra win in my book. 

First up, you watch an informational video in the theater. This video is the exact same one that I watched when I first went about 7 or 8 years ago. In fact, our tour guide told us that he believes the video is from the 80's so if you visited in the early 90's, SAME VIDEO! (I found it on youtube for your viewing pleasure.)

When we entered the theater, I sent a group text to my mom and dad to show them where I was. My mom responded with "Cool. We like that place". We are literally still laughing about it. Why is that so funny? I have no idea. 

The Powerplant tour takes you on a 70 second elevator ride 530 feet down through the rock wall of Black Canyon. The elevator is massive and fits probably 20+ people. Everything is fine until a few people step off the elevator and the whole thing jumps. Not the most exciting thing ever. (Shout out to the larger lady who kept joking about how it did that because everyone was so fat.)

Once you are off the elevator of terror, you begin a 30 minute guided tour. Our tour guide, who's name I cannot remember, was a former park ranger at Lake Mead and had a ton of awesome factoids about not only the Dam but the area. 

The first stop is the Penstock viewing area. The viewing area is located on top of one (of four) 30-foot-diameter pipes that has the capability of transporting 90,000 gallons of water each second from Lake Mead to the dam's hydroelectric generator. 

Next, we were back on the elevator of terror to head to see the Powerplant generators. 

The viewing area is on the Nevada side of the dam and offers a peak at 8 or the 17 generators. Hoover Dam generates, on average, about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California - enough to serve 1.3 million people. From 1939 to 1949, Hoover Powerplant was the world's largest hydroelectric installation; today, it is still one of the country's largest. 

Here's how the firm energy created at the Dam is allocated:

Arizona - 18.9527 percent
Nevada - 23.3706 percent
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - 28.5393 percent
Burbank, CA - 0.5876 percent
Glendale, CA - 1.5874 percent
Pasadena, CA - 1.3629 percent
Los Angeles, CA - 15.4229 percent
Southern California Edison Co. - 5.5377 percent
Azusa, CA - 0.1104 percent
Anaheim, CA - 1.1487 percent
Banning, CA - 0.0442 percent
Colton, CA - 0.0884 percent
Riverside, CA - 0.8615 percent
Vernon, CA - 0.6185 percent
Boulder City, NV - 1.7672 percent

So essentially, Hoover Dam powers my entire life in Los Angeles INCLUDING all of my trips to Disneyland! 

There is something suspect about this...

One thing that they always point out when visiting Hoover Dam is the original terrazzo flooring designed by Allen True in the 1930's. 

With that, our tour came to an end, so it was back to the elevators of death and on to the Visitor Center exhibits.

I'd love to see some of these job titles listed on LinkedIn today.

Not so fun fact: The official count of fatalities during the construction of Hoover Dam is 96. The first fatality and the last fatality being father and son. However, these are "industrial fatalities". They do not count anyone who got sick/injured while working at the Dam and then died at home.

After reading every single piece of info we could in the Visitor Center, we headed out to the overlook.


The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge spans the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.

It was legitimately 45 degrees so Liz and I decided to go walk the Dam quickly before hitting the road back to sunny Southern California. 


These are photos I took of Lake Mead from Hoover Dam in 2008 (left) & 2015 (right). Now try to tell me that the drought / global warming aren't real. (Feel free to use this in any of your research, Obama!) Lake Mead's water level has dropped by about 120 feet (37 meters) from where the water reached 15 years ago.

I think one of my favorite parts about the Dam is that you can stand in two states at once. I am all about those tiny places all across the nation where you can stand in multiple states at the same time. Yes. I know. I am a nerd. 

And with that, we concluded our fun/educational trip to Hoover Dam! 

The most important part of our journey back to Los Angeles had to be finding a Sonic and devouring some tater tots.