Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hoover Dam

On Friday, March 21st, we had quite an eventful day.  I had gotten in touch with a friend who now lives in the area, and during the morning I took my younger boys and we had a little visit.  My friend used to be in our homeschool support group in San Antonio (and my oldest boys' high school chemistry teacher); but as is often the case with military families, duty called them to a new station.  It's been nearly two years since I last saw her, but we didn't have any trouble catching up and letting the kids play.

After coming home and eating some lunch, all the kids and I packed up in the car and drove a little way to the east of Las Vegas to Hoover Dam.  I had originally intended for us to see the dam outside and go through the small visitor center.  But as I was buying our admission tickets I learned that it was only $2 more to tour the inside of the dam.  Obviously we paid the extra money to tour the inside!

Inside the dam we saw the huge water pipes that are used to divert water through the dam, and the hydroelectric turbines.  Built in during the Great Depression, it is still an engineering marvel even today.  We learned how the men of the 1930's created the dam in the middle of the Colorado River canyon in such a remote location. Too bad that my camera couldn't capture the sheer size of the dam.  But here are some interesting statistics about Hoover Dam:

Height = 726.4 feet
Crest length = 1244 feet
Crest width = 45 feet
Base width = 660 feet
Volume of concrete = 3.25 million cubic yards

The Hoover Dam has three main functions.  First, it provides irrigation for more than a million acres in America and half a million acres in Mexico.  (Remember all that fertile farmland we saw in California?  A lot of their water comes from the Hoover Dam/Colorado River.)  Second, it provides for the domestic water needs for more than 20 million people in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tuscon, and other cities and towns in Arizona, Nevada, and California.  And third, the Hoover Dam generates more than 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year, enough to serve 1.3 million people.

In addition to these practical benefits, there are aesthetic and natural benefits from the dam.  The dam created Lake Mead which provides recreation for more than nine million people each year.  Additionally, several wildlife refuges and backwaters have been developed along the river to replace habitat lost to the construction of the dam.

I was surprised at how many visitors were at the dam on a Friday afternoon, many of them foreign visitors.  We enjoyed an orientation movie, tour of the interior of the dam, exploring the visitor center museum and displays, and see the view from atop the dam.

We had a great day!  So much so that my kids fell asleep early that night and slept late the next morning!