Hoover Dam, located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, is the most-visited dam in the world. Completed in 1935 with the intent of taming the Colorado River, the dam provides hydroelectric power to 1.3 million people and provides water to municipalities throughout the Southwest. Hoover Dam also created Lake Mead, the 16th largest man-made lake in the world, which provides a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. If your travel sends you seeking American icons of ingenuity that combine man-made structures and nature, the Hoover Dam is a must-see.
Parking and Public Transportation at Hoover Dam
There is no public transportation to Hoover Dam, so driving or going on a chartered tour are your options. If you drive, you'll be able to drive right across the dam into Arizona; but since it is no longer open to through traffic, you're required to return to the Nevada side. A parking garage is available at the dam from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. for a fee.
Best and Worst Time to Go to Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is busiest in the summer months, so to avoid crowds schedule a visit before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. The slowest months are January and February. Tours fill up early, so if you plan to take a guided tour offered by the dam's visitors' center, arrive early. The center opens at 9 a.m. daily and the first tour is at 9:25 a.m.
Admission to Hoover Dam
Children ages 3 and under are admitted free to the dam through the visitors' center. All others are charged admission -- adults, seniors, juniors and military personnel all pay the same price. Guided tours are available at additional fees. People who suffer from claustrophobia or who have a pacemaker or defibrillator should not take the tours, which are conducted in confined space among the power plant's generators that send out electromagnetic fields.
Must See or Do at Hoover Dam
Take a walk on the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that allows for traffic to bypass the dam. As a pedestrian, you'll have incredible views of Lake Mead, the Colorado River and Hoover Dam (but you can't see the dam by driving across the bridge). For safety reasons, pedestrians are only allowed on the bridge during daylight hours.
Other Places to Visit Near Hoover Dam
Pay a visit to the Arizona Hot Spring in Lake Mead National Recreation Area -- but go in the spring or fall because the hiking trails close in the summer due to extreme temperatures. Nearby Las Vegas offers a variety of dining and show opportunities as well as casino gambling.
Insider Tip for Visitors to Hoover Dam
Tours of Hoover Dam are not always available because of elevator malfunctions or maintenance, but the visitor center is open regardless.
If you visit Hoover Dam during the busy summer months, dress for extreme heat and carry several bottles of water if you tour the dam.
Author's bio: Ronna Pennington, historian and freelance journalist, left behind the editor's desk and newspaper industry after 20+ years to spend more time traveling with her family.