Hoover Dam is one of the engineering marvels of the modern era and was built literally in the middle of nowhere during the Great Depression. Pretty much everyone at the time said it was not going to work. It was too large, too complex and it would fail. Obviously, the experts were wrong! Today, it still stands as a tribute to America’s will to survive and thrive as well as our determination as a nation to conquer any obstacle put in front of us.
Today, Hoover Dam is regarded as a “Must See” attraction for those visiting the Las Vegas area. It is what revolutionized the way we live work and survive in the western United States.
The Much Needed Upgrade
The Hoover Dam Visitor Center was first opened in 1995 and has seen an average of 1 million tourists a year go through the center and down into the generator overlooks using two custom-built elevators. Starting a few years ago, those elevators started to have issues. Breakdowns and outages. They needed to be replaced.
As well, many of exhibits highlighting the history of the dam as well as how it works and what its many purposes are – started to look outdated and boring. So last year, the Bureau of Reclamation and the other agencies that oversee the various parts of the Dam received funding for its first major facelift, update and upgrade.
This past winter, they shut the visitor center elevators off. Then divided the normal Hoover Dam Visitor Tour into two separate tours. One was to the Visitor Center and the other one was the Generator Overlook, using the original visitor elevators on the Nevada side that were originally installed in 1938.
The Visitor Center elevators held 45 people each and ran 10 hours a day. The original elevators hold 15 people and will run all day as well (hopefully). Except if the employee elevator on the Arizona side is not working, then they shut down the tour elevators as they would be needed if anything happened and they needed to rescue the workers on the Arizona side.
Following me still? So the elevators on the outside (the original), worked most of the time and only held half of what one of the visitor center elevators held. Thus, you always had a line waiting to go down into the generator overlook. Most packaged tours from Las Vegas stopped offering the generator overlook part of the tour during this project.
Back In Business and Better
Not anymore. Everything went back to normal at the start of March. The brand new Hoover Dam Visitor Center elevators are now installed, inspected, certified and working beautifully! Each holding the usual 40 to 45 guests and working consistently.
When you first enter the Visitor Center and go through security (no weapons, no food, no beverages allowed), you will notice that is is more open, modern looking and bright. Previous, it was a little dark and had that cave-like feeling to it.
After passing the ticket counter, you are ushered into the movie theater for a 10-minute movie showing you what it was like to conquer the Colorado River and the dangerous jobs that were performed here. Then it is onto the shiny new elevators with your guide and a fast trip down to the intake tunnels. After you get to see where the water enters the Dam, its another short elevator ride up to the generator overlook on the Nevada side.
Finally, your last elevator rides up to the exhibits and overlook.
The exhibit area has had a facelift of sorts. They are still doing some minor touchups and updates. Several new exhibits have been installed that are touch screen and interactive. Where you get to run the power generators and decide how much water, wind and geothermal energy you want to use to power your city. Yes, they had to throw in the green energy promotions to keep everyone happy!
However, the new interactive displays are very informative, functional and not preachy! They are pretty cool to play with and you do learn something while you are playing Master of the Turbines!
Check it out the next time you are in Las Vegas!