The Hoover Dam has a beautiful dam parking structure, lots of dam bathrooms, a dam gift shop and a great dam tour!
The impressive Hoover Dam has been on our to-do list and during our lengthy stay in Las Vegas, it opened up a perfect opportunity to make the 40 minute drive to this amazing creation.
In 2010, the Hoover Dam Bypass was opened, diverting drivers and the highway away from the dam. This new bypass soars hundreds of feet in the air above the dam and makes it impossible to see the structure from the freeway. You don’t actually catch a glimpse of the dam until after you go through security and down a windy, switchback road. The entire area is awe-inspiring from the multi-level parking structure they built right into the cliffside to the walkways around the dam, to the infrastructure supporting this monstrosity and don’t forget the staggering views.
On one side of the dam you are in Nevada and the other side of the dam you are in Arizona and the bridge holds two clock towers showing current Arizona time and current Nevada time (but since we were visiting in the summer, the time was exactly same).
It’s hard not to suffer from whiplash or acrophobia (fear of heights) here. Whether you are looking straight down the concrete slide of the dam or down into the edge of Lake Mead, both downward views can make even the strongest visitor, a little weak in the knees and there are picturesque views in every direction.
It’s a hot summer day and there were loads of over-heating tourists camped out at the “cooling stations” and inside the air conditioned bathrooms, but this visit was well worth dodging sweat and tourists (the Hoover Dam estimates that over one million people visit the dam every year).
They had tours, a gift shop, tons of parking and restrooms, a little cafe, monuments, plaques and statues, but my favorite was the magnitude and size of the dam. As the only one in my little family not afraid of heights, I thoroughly enjoyed leaning my head over the edge of the barrier walls and looking straight down. It was one of those moments where you realize how small you really are and how big the world really is.
Gazing at this concrete arch, it’s hard to imagine building this behemoth, let alone having to build it back in the 1930’s. It stands over 726 feet tall and is 1,244 feet long. It’s so tall that they measure it in elevation (standing at 1,232 feet…that’s like a small mountain).
The sky was perfectly blue with white puffy clouds, the water 720 feet down was a piercing shade of green, the red rocks slicing against the scenery and the 1200 feet of white concrete across the dam structure made for an impressive display of contrasting colors and picture perfect photographs.
I talked hubby and little one into venturing up to the mighty memorial bridge that stands high over the Hoover Dam for an even more impressive view of the dam (and an even bigger vertical drop to the freezing Colorado River below). The memorial bridge is attached to the new bypass and every time a semi truck would go by the entire bridge would rumble and bounce, making my other two counterparts feel very uncomfortable. Pictures cannot do this place justice; you can’t fully experience the Hoover Dam until you’ve stood on the edge of the bridge, peering down and admiring the concrete patchwork (all while appreciating the thickness and stability of the retaining wall you are leaning against)!
One of the most memorable aspects of our visit was a fast moving summer thunderstorm that blew through just as we were leaving. We were against the wall taking one last picture (one of about a thousand that day) and the rain started to fall, before I could finish my panoramic, it was hailing on me with some serious outflow winds that felt like a hurricane hit us. In a matter of minutes it was gone and the skies were back to blue and puffy white, but the storm left mini cascading waterfalls all around the dam and the parking structure, making for some fun (and wet) “dam” memories.
We didn’t do any of the tours this time, because we were having too much fun exploring, but they have quite a few to choose from. We also didn’t bring our RV with us (although they do have special RV parking available) and you can still drive across the actual dam! Highly recommend checking out the Hoover Dam, but if you go during summer months, bring lots of water and beware of rogue thunderstorms!
Tours below, but phenomenal vertical drops and views right here
Lake Mead looking out towards the Arizona side of the dam
Some interesting facts and plaques are littered all around the Hoover Dam visitor center
The mighty Colorado River looks dwarfed by the Hoover Dam and the memorial bridge and bypass
Mother daughter time at the Hoover Dam
Husband and wife, travel partners for life
The Totally Trailer Trio enjoying the day! You can start to see the storm coming in behind us (beyond the bridge)
The dam and the bridge are difficult to fit into one shot…but look at that slope down
Mere seconds into the rogue thunderstorm that blew through- we are hiding under the parking structure
Family picture in front of the Nevada state line (hey, I like silver)!
The Nevada side of the Hoover Dam looking at (the very low) Lake Mead
But nobody said anything about leaning over it
Leaning over and looking down the dam, past the Colorado River and up to the memorial bridge and bypass
Concrete patchwork at its finest here in Hoover Dam- Just look at this architectural monster
One of the many plaques documenting the building of the Hoover Dam from 1931-1935
The view high above the Hoover Dam on the memorial bridge