A Brief History
On September 30, 1935, the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River was dedicated, completing one of America’s greatest engineering and construction feats. Despite the immense fame of the dam and the thousands of people that visit it each year, there seems to be some misinformation about the great structure. Here we list 10 Things You Might Not Know About Hoover Dam, no significance to the order of the list.
10. Due to anti-terrorism concerns, tours no longer include most of the interior of the structure.
The public is no longer welcome to tour any sensitive areas of the interior of the dam that would adversely affect the integrity of the dam or electric output in case of sabotage. (See #5.)
9. Although located on the Nevada/Arizona border, most of the electricity from the dam goes to California.
Only about 25% of the electricity produced by Hoover Dam goes to Nevada and about 19% goes to Arizona. The rest is used by California. Los Angeles gets just over 15% of its electricity from Hoover Dam. In 2017, 5% of the power output will be reserved for Native American and co-op interests.
8. A B-29 bomber is on the bottom of Lake Mead.
The bomber crashed during a missile tracking test in 1948. There are 2 other, smaller planes, also at the bottom of the lake.
7. Lake Mead is shrinking.
Persistent drought has caused the volume of Lake Mead to shrink to around 40% of full capacity. Full capacity was last reached in 1983. The possibility that Lake Mead loses capacity to provide water for hydroelectric purposes and supporting aquatic life is looming, and will come about if drought relief does not occur before 2021, perhaps as early as 2017! Boating and water sports on Lake Mead have been severely affected by marinas and boat ramps ending up high and dry.
6. Not only is Hoover Dam not the largest dam in the world, it is not even the largest in the United States.
Although Lake Mead (the reservoir created by Hoover Dam) is the largest impoundment in the US, and when completed, the Hoover Dam was the largest and tallest dam in the world, Hoover Dam now does not even rank in the top 10. Dam size can be determined by height, length, or volume of material, and Hoover no longer ranks on top by any of those criteria.
5. The dam was closed to visitors after Pearl Harbor and after 9/11.
Hoover Dam was closed to visitors and civilian traffic from Pearl Harbor until September 2, 1945 when World War II was over. It was closed again after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and a by-pass was constructed (opened in 2010) to divert civilian traffic from crossing the dam. Tourist visits have resumed, and about a million tourists per year visit the dam.
4. The dam was not conceived as a job creator for the Great Depression.
The project was authorized in 1928 and signed into law by Calvin Coolidge, well before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. President Herbert Hoover had virtually nothing to do with the dam.
3. The dam was authorized as part of a larger project.
The bill authorizing the building of the giant dam and reservoir included the Imperial Dam downstream from the Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal.
2. The dam was originally named Boulder Dam.
At first the dam had no official name, but was usually referred to as Boulder Dam. In 1930 the Secretary of the Interior named the dam after the current president, Herbert Hoover, an un-traditional practice as dams and other structures are not normally named after a sitting president. In 1933 the new Secretary of the Interior renamed the dam, Boulder Dam, and for the next 14 years people referred to the dam by either name. Finally, in 1947 Congress settled the issue by officially naming it Hoover Dam.
1. There are no bodies buried in the dam.
Despite numerous rumors and common mythology about workers falling into wet concrete and being entombed, no workers died in this manner and none are entombed. There were 112 fatalities associated with the construction of the dam!
Question for students (and subscribers): What facts would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Hiltzik, Michael. Colossus: The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam. Free Press, 2011.
Mann, Elizabeth and Alan Witschonke. The Hoover Dam: The Story of Hard Times, Tough People and The Taming of a Wild River (Wonders of the World Book). Mikaya Press, 2006.