Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Las Vegas & Hoover Dam

After we left L.A., we spent a couple of nights in Las Vegas. Over the years John has visited Las Vegas many times with his job, so he knew his way around town pretty well. It was never one of his favorite towns. We stayed at a Thousand Trails campground that was east of downtown.

One of the reasons we stopped here was for John to visit Hoover Dam. This was one stop that he had wanted to make for many years but never had the time when the visitor center was open.

It's about a half hour drive from our campground out to the dam site. Of course, this being a government site, they charged $7 to park and $15 each for the tour. There was an expanded tour of the powerhouse, but we didn't think it was worth the $35 per person cost.

Hoover Dam, also know as Boulder Dam, was started in 1931 and completed in 1935, 2 years ahead of schedule. It was built to primarily control the flooding on the Colorado River and provide water for farmers and cities. The electricity generated powers parts of many cities in AZ, NV, & CA. The total capacity of Hoover is 2,074 megawatts.

One of the interesting facts that we found out on the tour is that the workers worked 7 days a week, with only 2 days off a year, July 4 and Christmas Day. Once the concrete started pouring, it worked 24 hours a day with no days off. They cooled the concrete with refrigerated water running through tubes to help the concrete cure. If they didn't use the cooler, it would take 125 years for the concrete to cure.

The design of the dam was very innovative. We asked about earthquakes and the guide mentioned that they registered over 20 quakes a day. But the design of the dam makes it very resistant to earthquake. The dam floats in the canyon, and is not attached to any of the walls. The pressure of the water of Lake Mead against the curve of the dam forces it against the walls. Considering that the dam is in AZ & NV, it remarkable that Southern CA gets the most electricity.

It really is one of the top engineering marvels of the world, especially considering it was built back in the 30s. We did find out that the lake is down 60' from the top of the dam due to 7 years of drought. This year looks a little better and should bring the water level up a little bit. It's hard to believe that the last time the lake was completely full and they had to release some water through the tunnels was in 1999. Originally it only took 6 years to fill Lake Mead. It goes to show weather patterns can run in cycles.

There are two powerhouses, one on the Nevada side and one on the Arizona side. The hold identical generators. There's also two small generators which generate enough electricity to run all of the dam operations, lights and tour needs.

One of the uses of the dam after it was completed was a bridge over the Colorado river for US Hwy 93. After 9/11, the road was closed. But it reopened about 2 years later, there was heavy security and any trucks or RVs are inspected. Because of the constraints, the government decided to build a new bridge. Here's a picture of their progress.

It's going to be a beautiful suspension bridge, but of course it will cost more that the entire construction of Hoover Dam. Oh, one of the other things the guides mentioned is that the dam is completely paid for by the selling of the electricity, so it cost the taxpayers nothing. Not your normal federal project.

If you want to see all of our pictures, click on this link to our Picasso album:

We also took the night tour of the strip. It continues to change with new hotels and now new condo towers. The lights are brighter than ever, but the crowds are down. There's a lot more specials and the shows aren't as crowded. We still don't think that any shows are worth $100 a seat. But we've always been in the minority. It's still a very unique city, even when it's been hard hit by the housing crisis and the bad economy.

1 comment:

Dkalla said...

Geez, I don't have to go anywhere....I have you guys to give me all the information I would ever need to know and more....:-)

And I agree, I wouldn't pay $100 bucks to see any of those shows either!