Inside, outside, above & below the massive engineering marvel that helped spur the growth of California and the American Southwest.
Yep, it’s another dam tour.
Hoover Dam is as tall as a 60-story building and was the highest dam in the world when it was completed in 1935.
Its base is as thick as two football fields are long. Each spillway, designed to let floodwaters pass without harming the dam itself, can handle the volume of water that flows over Niagara Falls.
The intake pipe from the Nevada side that feeds the generators.
Man vs Machine
Denver artist Allen Tupper True was hired to handle the design and decoration of the walls and floors of the dam. With the assistance of the National Laboratory of Anthropology, True researched authentic decorative motifs from Indian sand paintings, textiles, baskets and ceramics. The images and colors are based on Native American visions of rain, lightning, water, clouds, and local animals — lizards, serpents, birds — and on the Southwestern landscape of stepped mesas. True also reflected on the machinery of the operation, making the symbolic patterns appear both ancient and modern.
It took almost a year to install the elaborate terrazzo floors inside the dam complex. J.B. Martina Mosaic of Denver, Colorado, performed the work between 1936 and 1937.
Tunnel in the middle of the dam wall.
I wish I could’ve opened up this grate…
…and climbed down into the darkness.
At the end of the tunnel in the middle of the dam…
…you end up here…
…which becomes an incredible photo opportunity.
Louver or Leave It
Since concrete heats and contracts as it cures, the potential for uneven cooling and contraction of the concrete posed a serious problem. Bureau of Reclamation engineers calculated that if the dam was built in a single continuous pour, the concrete would take 125 years to cool and the resulting stresses would cause the dam to crack and crumble.
Instead, the ground where the dam was to rise was marked with rectangles, and concrete blocks in columns were poured, some as large as 50 feet square and 5 feet high. Each five-foot form contained a series of 1 inch steel pipes through which first cool river water, then ice-cold water from a refrigeration plant was run. Once an individual block had cured and had stopped contracting, the pipes were filled with grout. Grout was also used to fill the hairline spaces between columns, which were grooved to increase the strength of the joins.
Looking down the “Stairway to Hell”.
752 steps back up to the outside world, aka, “The Stairway to Heaven”.
That dam tour phone.
Perfect day for a swim.
Dam Fancy Bathrooms
Inside the Old Exhibit building (originally used as a headquarters for soldiers protecting the dam during World War II) is a huge topographical map model of a number of southwestern states. Major cities, geological spots, and various dams and reservoirs along the Colorado are meticulously labeled, and places like the Grand Canyon or the Valley of Fire are lovingly depicted in the diorama.
HD was here!
There were 112 deaths associated with the construction of the dam. The first was J. G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned on December 20, 1922, while looking for an ideal spot for the dam. His son, Patrick W. Tierney, was the last man to die working on the dam, 13 years to the day later. Ninety-six of the deaths occurred during construction at the site. Of the 112 fatalities, 91 were Six Companies employees, three were BOR employees, and one was a visitor to the site, with the remainder employees of various contractors not part of Six Companies. Not included in the official fatalities number were deaths that were recorded as pneumonia. Workers alleged that this diagnosis was a cover for death from carbon monoxide poisoning, brought on by the use of gasoline-fueled vehicles in the diversion tunnels, and a classification used by Six Companies to avoid paying compensation claims. The site’s diversion tunnels frequently reached 140 °F, enveloped in thick plumes of vehicle exhaust gases. A total of 42 workers were recorded as having died from pneumonia; none were listed as having died from carbon monoxide poisoning. No deaths of non-workers from pneumonia were recorded in Boulder City during the construction period.