Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona Border

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Ansel Adams was able to climb down the cliff side to get his photo above but it is not too dissimilar to the one we snapped from the road bridge spanning the river. (Photo attributed to: Ansel Adams – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

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After making a wrong turn….. literally… Meredith and I decided since we were close we would swing by to take a look at the Hoover Dam. It is a dam of the Colorado River, on the border of Arizona and Nevada, and impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. Construction began in 1931 and it was dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 before opening two years ahead of schedule. This project happened not to be a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project (as I thought it had) but was built by a private construction consortium called Six Companies for irrigation water and hydro-electric power.

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I love anything to do with construction; architecture, engineering, equipment, etc. and am amazed we were able to build a structure like this in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. My grandfather worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during this time building roads and bridges and the amount of construction and civil projects completed before the outbreak of World War II is hard to comprehend. I have heard from my grandparents that life was very hard at this time; to the point they often struggled just to have food to eat. But these were resilient people that didn’t complain and instead went into action. I am proud just to have heard some of the stories directly from this generation.

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The “power of the arch” is on full display here. Ever notice in ancient cathedrals that arches are commonly used to hold up brick or stone as they span large distances? Arches are used everywhere in concrete or masonry work and the reason is strength, not beauty. In this case the arch of the dam transfers the tremendous force of the water to the abutments which are the canyon sides or walls. A simple flat plane would not be capable of withstanding this type of force and the dam would fail almost immediately. I’m getting off topic but the arch was an amazing invention!

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To get a perspective on high we were notice the cars on the left – the road bridge is really up there and on a windy day (like we had) rocks back and forth slightly. If you ever make it to Las Vegas get out of the casino and make the one hour drive to see this National Historic Landmark. Or if you can afford it take one of the many helicopter tours available each day.

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