I Love Las Vegas: Hoover Dam and Bypass Bridge

Hoover Dam Colorado RiverOkay, so the Hoover Dam isn’t exactly in Las Vegas, but chances are you wouldn’t visit the dam in isolation without taking the time to visit Las Vegas. And actually, most people who want to visit Hoover Dam do so as a day trip from the city.

And who wouldn’t? The Hoover Dam is pretty darn spiffy. I’ve never considered myself an engineering geek by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t help but be impressed with the Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, located about 30 minutes from the heart of Las Vegas by car.

There are so many fantastic things to do beyond the Strip and even the immediate city limits of Las Vegas, and visiting the Hoover Dam is one of those things. I’ve been to the dam before, but every time I go (usually to take someone who is visiting us), I’m blown away by the enormity and scale of the dam. Built in the 1930s as a way to control floods, store water and provide hydroelectric power, the Hoover Dam is an engineering feat with an awesome list of statistics including:

  • The dam weighs 6.6 million tons.
  • It is 726.4 feet from foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam.
  • There are 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete in the dam.

And so on and so forth.

It really is an impressive feature, and now it’s been enhanced with the addition of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge (also known as the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge or Colorado River Bridge), which opened in October 2010. This bridge is a jointly funded effort by both Arizona and Nevada, and it was built for a variety of reasons. First, it greatly helps alleviate traffic on the dam, which was frequently backed up because of all the tourists. Secondly, it allows people who just want to get from Nevada to Arizona to bypass the dam altogether without having to go through security check points. We’ve used the bridge a few times to get to Arizona, and I can attest that it’s made a huge difference in our travel time.

But besides being a convenient way to skirt the dam, the bridge is definitely wow-worthy. For five years engineers and construction workers worked on the bridge, which is nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River. There is a walkway along the side of the bridge separated safely from passing traffic, and you don’t feel nearly as high above the water as you actually are. From the bridge, though, the Hoover Dam is an awesome site to behold, so it’s totally worth walking along the bridge as well as driving down to the dam in order to appreciate both perspectives.

If you really want to immerse yourself in the history of the dam, spend the money to take the tour, which drops visitors deep into the inner workings of the dam, but you definitely don’t need to do this if you just want to check out the views.

It costs $7.00 to park in the parking garage on the Nevada side of the dam, but if you drive across, there is a parking lot on the Arizona side where you can see both the dam and the bridge. The walk from this lot back down to the dam can be a bit hairy with traffic, but it may be worth it for the free parking and interesting view.

Note: Tours4Fun offers many Hoover Dam and related tours. If you don’t have a rental car, consider signing up for one of these tours instead. This is an affiliate link, but I have visited Hoover Dam on one of these tours and think its a worthy investment.

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