Dam It, Hoover!
As we drove to Vegas last month, we were excited by the fact that we were going to drive past the Hoover Dam. Before making it to the dam though, we passed by the Colorado River. There’s a nice little viewing area where you can stop and take pictures of the Colorado. Having seen what the Colorado did to the Grand Canyon just a day before, we were excited about meeting up with it again along our journey.
It is awe-inspiring to see this river cutting through the desert. The Colorado provides water to 40 million people in the surrounding areas. Its magnificent energy is harnessed via hydroelectric power, with over 29 dams. Damming is not all fun and games, though, and has environmental and economic consequences.
There is concern for the river’s future. The numerous dams have decreased the health of the Colorado River’s delta habitat and wildlife during times when the dams’ reservoirs had to be filled using fresh water, which prevented the much needed fresh water from getting to the delta (this went on for six years while Lake Mead was filled). Being a desert delta, fresh water coming downstream is extremely important to its ongoing survival.
Since the dams cause fewer floods along the delta, the silt in the river is not being deposited there. Unfortunately, even if it were to flood, much of the nutrient-rich silt is being held back by the dams and no longer goes downstream. This lack of silt deposition only further hinders the delta’s health.
Damming the river has also reduced its flow leading to evaporation, and increased its salinity and pesticide content due to irrigation runoff. Between a drought and increased water supply usage due to rapid growth of surrounding populations, there is cause for alarm; if current water usage and drying conditions continue, then Lake Mead (formed by the Hoover Dam) will most likely be rendered useless by 2021.
While Rob, the kids, and I marveled at the beauty of the Colorado River, we didn’t dawdle too long for fear of heatstroke. It was hotter than Hades out there. Rob and the girls went back to the car while I snapped a couple more shots of the river, but I soon high-tailed out of there as well. I got the shots I needed.
We followed the signs that led us down the mountainside to the Hoover Dam and passed through a security checkpoint. Upon seeing that Hoover Dam was $11 per person for a tour and $8 per person to get in the visitors’ center plus a $7 parking fee, and the fact that it was a scorcher outside, we decided we’d drive around the dam for a bit, and then head on to Vegas. We had already been driving for hours and were so close to our destination, we just couldn’t bear going on a tour.
Once you get down to the dam, you get a nice view of the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is beautiful in its design and sentiment. Opened in October, 2010, the bridge is a sprawling 1,900 feet long that arches 900 feet above the Colorado River and was the first concrete-and-steel composite arch bridge to be built in the USA.
We made it to the Hoover Dam. I took the best pictures I could take while riding in a car. Did I tell you how extraordinarily hot it was? Even rolling down the window to take these pictures wore me out.
Visit Travel Nevada and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation’s website for some trivia tidbits and more information about the Hoover Dam.
Driving away from the dam, we looked back and saw Lake Mead as we paved our way to Vegas and left the Hoover Dam in our dust.
Love the photo of the Pat Tillman bridge. I saw it many times while it was being built and the last time I was at the Dam it was a just weeks away from being completed. That bridge also fixed what was one of the worst road infrastructure areas of the US. It used to be that the freeway going from Arizona to Vegas would cross the dam. As you were probably aware when you were there, that means 15MPH speed limit and many pedestrians walking around. This often meant that crossing the Dam could take 1-2hrs on a bad day. The only other way around was to actually drive around Lake Mead, a trip of over an hour. The Pat Tillman bridge has solved all these problems and keeps traffic moving on the freeway while being safer for tourists visiting the Dam.