Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Hoover Dam is located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on Highway 93. It straddles the Colorado River at Black Canyon, a deep narrow defile on the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona. It was originally called Boulder Dam, and the nearby city of Boulder, Nevada was created to house the workers building this amazing wonder of engineering. You can easily drive to Boulder City and Hoover Dam from Las Vegas in less than one hour.

Hoover Dam on Arizona - Nevada border near Las Vegas © NV Commission of Tourism
Hoover Dam is one of the largest dams in the world.

Hoover Dam is one of the largest dams in the world. It is 726 feet high (232 m) and 1244 feet long (379 m). It impounds the waters of the largest reservoir in the USA, Lake Mead. It is worth seeing.

Boulder City Nevada is near Hoover Dam

The city of Boulder is a small desert community that offers a quiet alternative to the glitz of Las Vegas. It has a modest selection of restaurants, shops, boutiques and stores that cater to the local residents as well as to the tourists coming to visit the nearby dam. This is a pleasant place to stop for lunch while on an afternoon excursion to Hoover Dam.

Once you pass through Boulder City Nevada on your way to Hoover Dam, you will see the large steel electric transmission towers that transport the hydroelectric energy from the dam to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and many other southwestern cities. You will come to a scenic pullout that overlooks Lake Mead. Finally, you will descend part way into Black Canyon via a winding precipitous road that provides you with tantalizing glimpses of the massive dam. Unfortunately, you are not permitted to stop or to pull off the road to savor the view.

Highway 93 passes over Hoover Dam

The highway leads right down to Hoover Dam. It crosses over the top of the dam and winds its way back up and out of the canyon on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Just before crossing the dam, there is a visitor center on the right and a parking garage across the road to the left. The visitor center offers an interpretive display about the dam, a documentary film concerning the construction of the dam and access to a viewing platform. Unfortunately, the hard-hat tours down into the bowels of the dam and its massive generating rooms were suspended after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The parking garage is open from 8AM until 6 PM and the visitor center is open from 9 AM until 5 PM. Admission costs $10 and parking in the garage costs $5.

Across the dam on the Arizona side, you will find free open-air parking lots. You can easily park here and walk across the top of the dam to the visitor center. Plan on spending one or two hours at the dam.

Lake Mead recreational fishing boat © National Park Service
The Lake Mead Recreation area offers opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, camping, exploring the desert, or just plain sightseeing.

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the USA

Lake Mead is 115 miles long (185 km), 1 to 8 miles wide (1.6km to 12km) and covers 247 square miles (640 sq km). It has over 550 miles of shoreline (885 km). The Lake Mead National Recreation Area includes Lake Mead but also contains much of the desert landscape surrounding the lake, a large strip of land bordering the Colorado River to the south and Lake Mohave 67 miles south of Hoover Dam.

You can access the shores of Lake Mead from several locations off of route 166, also known as Lakeshore Scenic Drive, or from route 167 east of Las Vegas. You can access Lake Mohave from route 95 south of Las Vegas on the Nevada side or from route 93 southwest of Hoover Dam on the Arizona side.

The Lake Mead Recreation area offers opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, camping, exploring the desert, or just plain sightseeing. The vision of a bright blue sea in the midst of a stark barren desert landscape is quite startling and beautiful. You can rent fishing boats, speedboats or houseboats at several locations on Lake Mead and on Lake Mohave. There is even an old-time paddlewheel steamboat that offers tours of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead or dinner dance cruises on the lake.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Micheal Borjesson
Photo Description: Hoover Dam