When you head to Las Vegas, Nevada your first thought is probably going to be about the dazzling lights and sounds associated with the casinos and the infamous Vegas Strip. Of course that is part of going to Vegas but I would urge you to think outside the box for a moment when you first arrive at McCarron International Airport in Vegas and consider heading East to Boulder City, home of the Hoover Dam.
Aside from this being an amazing piece of infrastructure, you have the ability to stand not only in two states (Nevada and Arizona) at the same time but also two different time zones (Pacific and Mountain). This in itself is pretty cool and I can only imagine how difficult this would be to adjust to if you lived in Vegas and then drove to say Kingman, AZ on a daily basis.
The Hoover Dam – Nevada Side
Approaching the Hoover Dam from Vegas, your first obstacle to overcome after driving through Boulder City is to get through the security checkpoint. Fortunately our experience was seamless and we were waived through (I guess we should take that as if we don’t look suspicious, so that’s a positive!) without having to be thoroughly searched. There are several exits along the way as you drop down into the canyon to the Hoover Dam that you can get out and take some excellent shots of Lake Mead and surrounding area. One of the really cool views was on the side of the mountains where the trains used to run through, the old disused tunnels are now available for hikers to walk through and explore. You can also access the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which is the central portion of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project and crosses over the width of the Colorado River, extending from the Arizona side back to Nevada.
As you drop down to the actual location of the Hoover Dam, you are presented with the option of parking in the ‘official’ parking garage for $10 which despite it’s apparent excellent location is rather misleading and I would recommend continuing across the Dam, into Arizona and parking on one of the several parking lots on the side of the road which are FREE. The main visitor center offers a wide variety of souvenirs and also encompasses a cafe for anyone wanting to grab a bite to eat.
The Hoover Dam – Arizona Side
Crossing the Nevada-Arizona State line half way across the Hoover Dam, you enter Mountain Time Zone. As I just mentioned, parking on this side is for the most part free and highly recommended. If you follow the scenic drive to the summit of the canyon, there is a quaint little gift shop offering Hoover Dam souvenirs but given that you can’t go any further into Arizona on this route, you are required to turn around and head back down towards Nevada. Beware though that the prices in this Arizona store tend to be a little higher than the official visitor center which may be surprising but maybe it’s because each store is located in a different state.
Parking in one of the spots on this side and then wandering back down to the main Hoover Dam feature is a worthwhile experience and you then have the decision to make whether you want to participate in one of the Dam tours available to you. The two main tours include the cheaper Powerplant tour option which is only $15 per person and the more expensive Hoover Dam tour which is a fairly steep $30 per person. We opted against either of these tours as we felt we experienced the dam sufficiently from the outside without having to explore the interior. I am sure it is a worthwhile experience if you decide to do either of these tours.
Frequently driving up and down the canyon is the comically named, ‘Dam Bus’ but appropriate for the location of course! Tourists from all sides of the globe venture here to see the magnificent design of the Hoover Dam, it really is a spectacular piece of human manufacturing that clearly has benefits to the local areas along the Colorado River.
The Memorial Bridge
The first thing to say about the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is that it really is a spectacular sight from the Hoover Dam itself and also when you are physically on the bridge. Spanning across the Colorado River, this arch bridge measures over 1200ft and has a similar elevation at the crest of the bridge with the river flowing beneath. A warning for anyone with a fear of heights that walking across this bridge may not be for you but I have to admit it’s a really cool experience. As you leave the Hoover Dam area, you can park near the top and then walk up a series of steps that depict the history of the construction of the Memorial Bridge.
As you cross the bridge, you have some really amazing views of the canyon and Hoover Dam. There is a plate secured in the bridge floor indicating the state line, without doubt a popular spot for tourists to get that perfect shot.
The overall experience at the Hoover Dam is awesome. I would highly recommend anyone taking an afternoon out of their trip to Las Vegas to head beyond Boulder City to see this because the construction, innovation and overall design is a must-see to really appreciate the magnitude of this dam and Memorial Bridge. Plus you get the added incentive of being able to tell your friends and family that you ‘stood in two states at the same time’ and even better ‘two different time zones’.
The time zone piece – this could work nicely in favour if you weren’t a morning person – an extra hour in bed if you lived on the side ahead by an hour…. I’m always fascinated to architecture that just doesn’t seem possible – as you say, a shame so many people don’t travel out of the cities to take it in…
The thought of standing in two states and two time zones does indeed sound strangley appealing and the different aspects of the damn and the bridge look pretty impressive sights. I must admit though that the last one did make me think of a disater movie – if I walked across it I’d probably be keeping an eye open for suspicious looking cracks!
I’ve never been on the bridge to take a picture of the dam, it’s a stunning spot..why haven’t I don’t this? Anyways, the image in black and white is well done, it gives it a very impressive look as a monument!
Thanks Noel, we appreciate your kind comments! It was actually a spur of the moment decision to head up to the Memorial Bridge because we were on our way out of the Hoover Dam area when we decided to park at the top of the hill and wander up across the bridge. Certainly agree that you can get probably the most spectacular shots of the Hoover Dam from up here, it’s worth the walk to get these shots for sure!
Vegas itself holds no particular appeal to me, but I guess it needs to be experienced at least once if you’re to fairly judge. The Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon on the other hand… those are both places that I’d like to see and that I imagine would justify a trip to Vegas… 🙂
I think Vegas is just one of those spots that you either love or hate! I enjoy having a quick flutter in the casinos, just as I do with the old betting on Saturday football matches (not very successful but it’s the taking part that counts right!) but I also think that anyone heading to Vegas should appreciate the surrounding region also. We wanted to go to the Grand Canyon also but as it was about 3-4 hours drive away, it wasn’t feasible to do this along with everything else in a weekend trip. Save that for another time!
great shot of the dam from the bridge. I went a few years ago and they were still building the bridge. Now I feel I must go back!
Cheers Brittany! I am sure if you head back there anytime soon, you will have a completely different experience to the last time you went there when it was under construction. The bridge really is a majestic piece of architecture above the Hoover Dam.
Great piece Chris. You’ve totally painted a picture of why someone should tear themselves away from the casinos and do something awesome like this. Fabulous description, very inspiring, cool photos also. I like your bit about security, as well as the time zones.
I’ve always wanted to go here and I also like the idea of being in two places! Love the B&W photo 🙂
It’s amazing how many times I have been to Vegas and never made it to the Hoover Dam. Maybe I need to plan to go BEFORE hitting the strip next time!
Jeff, we found that going to the Hoover Dam and then also Red Rock Canyon prior to seeing anything on the Strip was the best thing to do! Because once you hit up those casinos both on the Strip and in old downtown Vegas, time can quickly get away from you as I am sure you are aware!
Great photos, demonstrating why a trip to this part of the world really should be on the list. Like others have said Vegas itself does not appeal to me but areas around the strip should be visited. 🙂
Vegas has so much more to offer than just the casinos and wild ‘Hangover’ parties that everyone associates with the Strip. Unfortunately though the media coverage of Las Vegas does not spread much beyond this and therefore whenever most folks visit, they fail to look what is just outside of the city limits. The Hoover Dam is literally a 35 minute drive from downtown Vegas and to the West of the Strip you have Red Rock Canyon and the start of the Mojave Desert which is less than 20 minutes away!
Great post and the photos are really demonstrative of just what an engineering wonder the dam is! Very much enjoyed 🙂
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Good pics man! I aint never been to the Hoover damn, but I am definitely going there now! By the by, how is it your a Brit and a Southerner again? I didn’t see your crazy reasoning behind that.
You have some great shots in here. I’ve been a few times to The Dam but haven’t returned ever since the bridge has been finished. You’re definitely making me think that it will be a bit of a road trip the next time I’m stateside.
However, I do cringe a bit every time I see pics of The Dam. From an ecological perspective I mean. Without a doubt, it’s one of the major reasons that the Mighty Colorado no longer makes it all the way to the ocean. An absolute marvel of technology indeed, but thinking that it might not exactly be an advancement… just a thought.
This seems to be an awesome excursion, we will definitely do that when we go to Vegas one day. This dam seems impressive, reminds me of some movie, I don’t remember which one. The photos you have taken are excellent, being a photography freak I like especially the black and white one!
The experience is unlike any other and for me it was a first to go to Vegas. I was also thinking about the movie Vegas Vacation with Chevy Chase, not sure if that is the movie you were thinking about but I kept telling Chris about it since he had never seen it. Great memories especially when you experience it yourself.
Terrific photos! I’d love to see this bridge one day. It’s probably the only reason I would go to Vegas!