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Hoover Dam

Located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the Nevada-Arizona border about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas, this is the highest concrete dam in the United States.

Hoover Dam as seen from downriver

The need for a dam on the Colorado River became apparent in the early 1900's, after a series of floods devasted the Palo Verde and Imperial valleys. The floods were bad enough, but the river was also susceptible to long dry spells, and it was just as common for there to be too little water to sustain crops. In 1928, Congress authorized creation of the Boulder Canyon Project, which was charged with controlling floods, improving river navigation, providing for the storage and distribution of water, and generating electricity. The first concrete was poured on June 6, 1933, and the dam itself was completed on May 29, 1935; the entire project was completed on March 1, 1936, two years ahead of schedule. The dam created Lake Mead, which provides fresh water for Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and even southern California.

Originally known as Boulder Dam, it was officially renamed Hoover Dam by Congress in 1947 in recognition of former President Herbert Hoover's accomplishments before, during, and after his presidency.

location of Hoover Dam

Facts and Figures--Dam

Dam Type Arch-gravity
Height 726.4 feet high, from foundation to crest
Length Along Crest 1,244 feet
Thickness at Base 660 feet
Thickness at Top 45 feet

It took more than 4,400,000 cubic yards of concrete to build Hoover Dam, not including that used in the spillways; that is enough to build a two-lane road from New York to San Francisco.

Although 96 men are known to have died during construction of the dam, none of them are buried within the dam itself. Despite many common rumors to the contrary, it was simply not possible for anyone to have been swallowed up by concrete during the pours, as no single pour ever raised the level of concrete more than a few inches. Even if someone did manage to fall into a form during a pour, it would have been fairly easy for his co-workers to get him out long before the concrete had a chance to harden around him.

Facts and Figures--Lake Mead

Length ~115 miles
Width varies from a few hundred feet to almost 8 miles
Maximum Depth 589 feet
Height Above Sea Level 1,229 feet

At full capacity, Lake Mead holds enough water to flood the entire state of New York up to 1 foot deep.


Bureau of Reclamation
Desert USA

See Also

Herbert Hoover

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The Robinson Library >> Dams

This page was last updated on September 28, 2018.