I’ll be honest. I’m not really a sightseeing type of girl, especially when it comes to old buildings, structures, monuments, statues and the like. But when I was told that I should check out the Hoover Dam, I didn’t realize I was going to have such a “dam” good time.
I actually visited Hoover Dam a couple of times since moving out here more than a decade ago. This past week was the first time I got to experience the dam by walking on the bridge. Completed in October 2010, the Mike O’ Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge gives you jaw-dropping, breathtaking aerial views. Before you could only experience these views by helicopter. Now, you have the luxury of driving here yourself and seeing the manmade wonder from high above. How cool is that?
Located about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam, the walkway on the bridge is approximately 900 feet above the Colorado River. If you’re afraid of heights, I recommend that this be the one site to conquer your fear. The view of the dam is too amazing to pass up! I was snapping pictures on my phone like an excited schoolgirl.
The 1,900-foot-long bridge gives you plenty of opportunities to take photos from different angles. That way, you’ll have those perfect panoramic shots when you put your pictures together. This bridge gave me a whole new appreciation of the dam. The view is gorgeous. I also like the fact that just by crossing the bridge, you go from Nevada to Arizona in a matter of a couple of minutes. If you’re walking the bridge, you’ll notice oncoming traffic is really close on one side of the wall. But don’t worry — the wall itself is tall and I can’t even see the cars unless I’m on my tippy toes. Then again, I’m 5 feet tall, so if you’re taller than me cars may appear a wee bit close!
There are plenty of placards explaining the construction of the bridge. I was shocked to find out people first had this idea in the 1960s, but didn’t start building it until 40 years later.
The Hoover Dam Bypass was created to not only reduce traffic (trust me, the stop-and-go traffic from Arizona to Nevada before was a pain), but also to protect Lake Mead and the Colorado River from hazardous spills or explosions. There is limited parking reserved for visiting guests only. Those taking ground transportation tours to the Grand Canyon will be able to cross the bridge, but not stop.
A lot of people ask if they should take a bus tour to Hoover Dam or just drive it. It really all depends on how much history and exploring you want to do. If you’re a history buff, then taking the tour is the ideal choice. You’ll get to hear stories about the dam from your tour guide, like what construction workers endured and much more. You’ll even take an elevator ride to the bottom and see the huge generators. You’ll also get to see amazing artifacts at the visitor’s center and get up-close views of the dam and the river.
Tours are fun and educational, but if you want to take your time and enjoy a leisurely stroll across the bridge and read all the placards, you won’t be able to. You’ll be on a tight time limit.
I liked going on my own because I was able to take my time and not stay with a group. If you park to walk along the bridge, you’ll notice there are plenty of areas to sit and take a break. Also, if you wanted to drive closer to the dam, take close-up pictures of the structure and see the visitor’s center there is a parking garage available for $7 per vehicle. If you don’t mind walking a little further, there is also free parking in various little spots.
However, if you do go on your own, you won’t get all the details the tour guide provides. So to tour or not to tour? It all depends how much you want to know about the dam. I’ve done the tour and I liked it. You get to watch a movie about the making of the dam and see all the effort that was put into it. Plus, the generators are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They look like a set of houses. I also liked how the tour guide was also able to answer questions. Sometimes talking to a guide is more interesting than reading information from a plaque.
I think to get a full perspective of the dam, you need to do both. If you take a car, you have the liberty of going at your own pace, taking in the aerial view from the bridge and leaving and parking at different spots so you can get different angles. But on a bus tour, you get an in-depth history and look at the inside of the dam.
I say just take two trips — both times you’ll be sure to have a “dam” good adventure. And how often do you get to see one of the world’s greatest manmade wonders, especially it’s only 30-40 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip?
For a list of Hoover Dam tours, click here.