Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hoover Dam Site to See! (Place punctuation where ever you like...)

Leaving Las Vegas in a rusty rental, we headed for the desert by way of the largest manmade lake created by the one time largest dam in the world, the Hoover Dam.  After driving through the brown scorched landscape, we were shocked to see the deep blue of Lake Mead just forty-five minutes from Sin City.  It was beautiful!  There is a fantastic Lake Mead Reservoir with boating, hiking trails, camping and beach.  What an oasis!

Approaching the Dam, we had to go through security similar to the airport.  I forget that our national treasures are protected as well as our safety.  A nice security guard greeted us very friendly-like and after a brief visual search waved us through.  Luckily, it was not a crowded day.  My sister and brother-in-law visited the dam in summer and it took over an hour to get through the security check.

Our neighbors on Fripp, Steve and Mary, had highly recommended we take the Hoover Dam tour so we parked and headed inside.  There are two different tours at the dam: the 30 minute guided tour of the power plant ($11 adults, $9 kids) and the 1 hour guided tour of the dam ($30 each- must be over 8 years old.)  The power plant is inside the dam and redirecting tunnels so we decided to take the kids on the less intensive and expensive power plant tour.  I'm so glad we took their advice!  It was the perfect family field trip!

Diagram of Hoover Dam engineering
As one of America's seven modern civil engineering wonders, the Hoover Dam stands as testament to engineering brain power and the greatest generation's will power.  Built during the Great Depression, six companies and thousands of workers banded together to not only create a dam that would control the rampaging waters of the Colorado River to generate power for the entire southwest, but also build an infrastructure of roads, railways, and a town to transport and house all the materials and people needed for such an endeavor.  AND they completed it all ahead of schedule!  Who does that today?  Nobody.

Our dedicated guide gave detail after detail about the dam's construction, as well as, how the water flows through the dam to generate electricity.  If you're interested in the dam by the numbers, visit the Bureau of Reclamation's website.  Though the Hoover Dam is no longer the largest dam in the world, it is still on the list of National Historic Sites and an amazing site to behold.

Great viewing area outside the museum!
The Hoover Dam is no longer a throughway to Arizona.  Visitors must cross this new and scary bridge.
Our family field trip taught the kids first hand about American ingenuity and perseverance.   The dam museum took us back in time to the Great Depression and showed how the builders worked and lived.  We heard the voices of those involved and their first person accounts of the construction.   These people dedicated over five years of their lives to this project working round the clock with only two days off a year: Christmas and the Fourth of July.  The museum also showcased the science behind the power plant.  Our kids experimented with water pressure and electromagnetic fields.  They also saw the beauty, danger, and controversy sometimes created in controlling water.  At our next hotel, I planned to show them the American Experience on the building of the dam to help "cement" their learning.
Excellent Immersion Museum is part of tour.

Before heading to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at the Winged Figures of the Republic made by sculptor Oskar Hansen.  These bronze figures are now a weathered green patina... everywhere but their hand polished bronze feet where scores of visitors have rubbed their toes for good luck.  They have been at the head of the dam on the Nevada side since its dedication by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 and have been granting good luck to all who stop to rub.

It was too late for luck in Vegas, but taking three kids to the south rim of the Grand Canyon may be the riskiest thing we've done all year.  Needless to say,  I was rubbing up a storm.


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