Talking About The Hoover Dam Dog

On this date, February 21, 1941, the lovable black lab mutt who had become the unofficial mascot to all the men building Hoover Dam was accidentally killed. I bet you didn’t know that. Many people don’t. Well, there is a reason (and a story) for that.


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The Dog You Didn’t Know About

Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression, in the middle of literally nowhere. It was something the experts said could not be built. It was too big, it was too complex, and it was far from anywhere.  Yet, they did it.   It wasn’t an easy place to live or to work and the men who worked on the project looked for any piece of happiness and normalcy that they could find.

They found it in a mangy black hair mutt who seemed to have claimed the dam site as his and that the men working there were there for him. It was His dam!  Because of his black thick fur, they gave him a name appropriate for that era, they named him “Nig”.  He became their mascot and oftentimes their best friend.

On this fateful day, it was sunny and very hot in the canyon.  Nig, the unofficial dam mascot, was riding on the back of a Six Companies truck that had made a stop before proceeding onto the dam.  The driver got out to check some paperwork at a station check-in.  Nig was hot and wanting to get out of the sun, jumped off the truck, and went underneath it for some shade.

The One Time He Didn’t Look

Nig was like any of the other big shots on the Dam project. He was always moving around.  You never really knew where he would show up.  So it became a habit for the workers to always look under their vehicle before moving.  Just in case he was underneath. This one time, the driver had been distracted by the commotion going on around the roadway he had stopped on and did not do a full check underneath.

Unfortunately, it was the one time Nig was there, underneath the rear truck tires.  The driver began to pull away when he realized he had run over something.  That something was Nig and the accident was fatal.

Once word of His death had spread, the residents of the little town of Boulder City, openly mourned his passing while the men working on the Dam had stopped what they were doing and immediately began to dig their friend a proper grave beside the famous structure and in some of the toughest rock on earth.

They knew that for all the happiness he had brought them, the mangy mutt with black coarse hair deserved to be buried right there. Not far from where he died.  A place where he could always watch over His Dam!

 

The Only Body Buried at Hoover Dam

Although urban legend and popular songs claim otherwise, there are no bodies buried in Hoover Dam. The dog is the only body buried AT Hoover Dam. Actually, his grave is just alongside the dam that he loved so much. Not far from the visitor center entrance.

The Hoover Dam Dog Grave

The burial spot and marker for the unofficial Hoover Dam mascot

The dog’s final resting spot was completed with a plaque honoring and explaining his importance to the men who worked alongside him.  That little plaque paying homage to the dog that brought so many people happiness went without one complaint for almost 40 years.  Not One!  Not until the 1980’s when a Wisconsin socialist named Clarence Kailin with apparently too much time on his hands, started a letter-writing campaign to get the plaque honoring the dog removed.  Claiming the Dog’s name was racist.

So what could get this lonely, angry old white man from Wisconsin so riled up? This one line:

“NIG—The Dog That Adopted A Dam-“

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Reclamation, the government agency overseeing the Dam project, not wanting to cause too many waves sided with the angry old man over some very loud objections from the Dam workers as well as city and civic leaders from Boulder City. Those opposed to the removal of Nig’s headstone stated that in removing the plaque, they are ignoring the historical context of the name as well as the dog’s meaning to the project.  As proper as that reasoning was, common sense lost out to Political Correctness.

A short time later, after several groups stepped forward, a new plaque was mounted over his grave, telling the story of the dog. Sadly, without his name being mentioned.

The plaque reads:  “The Hoover Dam construction crew’s mascot was found as a puppy by workers at the construction camp.  This dog traveled to and from the damsite with them and spent his days visiting the many work areas.  On February 21, 1941, the life of this devoted animal came to an end when a truck under which he was sleeping rolled over him.  The grave below was completed by the workers that same day”

Who was Nig?

This little black bundle of fur was nobody’s dog yet he was everyone’s dog.  They found him as a pup one day under one of the newly constructed buildings inside the new company town of Boulder City.  He kind of thought he ran the project. Riding only Six Companies vehicles to and from the project.  Nobody could understand how he knew one vehicle from another, but all reports say that he knew and he only rode with Six Companies vehicles.  (Six Companies was the general contractor for the project).

He spent most of his days riding the trams up and down the dam project, running off any other stray dog or cat that entered the job site.  He even had his own lunch bag and would carry it to where the other workers were sitting to have lunch and patiently wait for somebody to open the bag and feed him.

He loved everyone who worked on the dam, skin color was not an issue to Nig.  In return for his dedicated friendship and color blind love, the workers made sure that he was well-loved, well-fed, and well protected.  If you got caught kicking or hurting the dog in any fashion, you were promptly given your walking papers and escorted to the edge of town, and asked to never come back. So when he was killed by the truck he was under, everyone seemed to have felt the pain and mourned the loss.

 

The Times, The Dog

It was The Great Depression.  The men were out in the middle of nowhere, building something everyone said could not be built.  With most of the country out of work, they were happy just to have a job, any job, even a dangerous job in the harshest climates.  They needed to provide for their families.

From the stories you read about what it was like to live and work in Boulder City, building the dam, and how hard of a life it was,  you know the dog played an important role in giving these men something positive and entertaining in their stressful, dismal day-to-day work lives.  Some may even say that he played an important part in the successful building of the Hoover Dam.  Hoover Dam is considered to be one of the greatest mechanical wonders of the modern world.

Yes, We had severe racial discrimination in the 1930s.  We can all agree that America was still a very deeply segregated society.  It was not a good time for a lot of people, especially those of minority backgrounds.  Especially while being out in the middle of nowhere, trying to build a dam. But that does not mean that we need to cover it up. Hide from it and say that it did not happen.

It happened. Those were the times we lived in.  The dog was black and they gave him a name that corresponded with the dog’s color and it reflects the times that he lived in. We need to recognize that fact, not hide it!

Nig The Hoover Dam Dog Grave

He is Remembered

Last year (2016) they finally added some new informational plaques, giving the Dam visitor a little more history on the dog, still not mentioning his name.  I have also noticed that more Vegas tour guides now make his grave a stop on their walking tour of the dam. All positive things for the tour guests and this helps to tell a more complete story of the dam.

I still believe in the context of history, as well as the important role he played in the building of the dam: The name of the dog needs to be properly mentioned.  You can learn from history if you are reminded of it.  You just can’t change it or ignore it happened just because someone felt offended. That’s not right.

Where is He Buried?

Today, even with the new markers, many people who visit the dam, have no clue that the gravesite is even there.  So as you walk from the parking structure to the escalators to go down to the Visitor Center to get your tickets and start the Hoover Dam tour, look to your left and you will see it there in the shade. Alongside the rock wall.

So Now You Know!

If you do go out to Hoover Dam, could you do me a favor??  On your walk out to the dam, take a walk over to his grave.  Give Nig a moment of your time. Maybe a minute of silence in his remembrance, and think of what his friendship must have meant to all those who worked to build that dam. I’m sure he would like that.

 

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(Originally posted 02/21/2017. Updated 02/21/2021)


Is Hoover Dam Open for Tours?

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Last Thursday, the beginning of the panic in Las Vegas, I decided to take a drive to visit my favorite place around, Hoover Dam. Just to see if at least the bridge viewing was open. Short answer: No. It’s all on lockdown. As it should be. It is a National Treasure and needs to be protected. FYI: It’s VERY well protected.

<< Book Your Hoover Dam Tour Now >>

It was a nice drive down there. The sky looked gloomy. It’s been that way for about a week now. Not exactly your normal start of Spring in Las Vegas!  Definitely not bikini weather!  Actually it was colder than normal and seems to be that way now.  So maybe we were lucky the town has been shut down over this “pandemic”!

 

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Where to Go After SEMA? To The Gold Mine, Of Course!

SEMA 2018 just wrapped up at the Las Vegas Convention Center and after the show, a lot of the specialty cars and trucks we saw on the tradeshow floor, headed out for one final day of photoshoots before being loaded up in the cushy trailers and taken back to their homes.

So where do you head when you want the ultimate desert backdrop for your photos of the tricked out cars and trucks? The Mursha Reservoir of course!  The what??  To most people, its better known as the Boulder City Dry Lake Bed. And for a really fun shoot, you take them out a little further to the Eldorado Canyon Mine, near Nelson!

Eldorado Gold Mine SEMA 2018 GMC
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It just so happens, that’s where I was heading out to with a private tour today.  To the Eldorado Gold Mine!  My wonderful guests from England not only got to take an awesome tour of an infamous old gold mine, but they also got to admire and some very cool pieces of American automotive art and creativity, up close and personal! Things most people only see in the magazines and on the movie screens

SEMA stands for “Specialty Equipment Market Association” This is a “trade only ” convention for all the people and the manufacturers that design, make, and sell the aftermarket gadgets for your vehicles.

Gold Mine Photoshoot
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The Eldorado Canyon Gold Mine is a quirky little place about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas near Boulder City.  Believe it or not, there was a time when Las Vegas wasn’t even a place.  In the 1800s, if you wanted western adventure, it was here.  This was the place.  At the Eldorado Canyon and the Techatticup Goldmine. If there was a real-life western character you ever read about or watched in a bad western movie, they were probably here at one point in their life.

Techatticup Mine Tour

These days it’s a very unique, family-owned tourist attraction and photographers’ dreams studio.  If a tour of the old gold mine doesn’t interest you, you can wander around and marvel at the collection of old cars, unique western buildings, and other artifacts they have spread around.  That’s what the photographers and models love about this place.  Plenty of unique setting for that one of kind photo setting.

ElDorado BMW SEMA 2018
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All About The Cars

Today it was all about the cars and how good the desert landscape would make them look for the 2019 marketing campaigns the manufacturers were already planning. From a classic GMC panel truck coming down an old curvey two-lane road to a BWM, all tricked out with the latest lowrider modifications.  If that wasn’t the plan, how about making the chrome and steel shine in the desert sunshine with a mountain range in the backdrop?

Occasionally a photographer would throw in the half-naked model draped across the hood, just for an added effect! Sorry, I was unable to get any good pics of the models, as I was also trying to work my tour around the cameras, the chase vehicles, and those other people out trying to get some cool photos!

Dry Lake Bed SEMA SHoot
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Like I said, today it was all about the custom cars, trucks, and motorcycles.  Ok, and the occasional Vegas photographer out there with the well-dressed family hoping to create that one of a kind, family Christmas card or engagement photo.  This place is very popular for those as well!!

Eldorado Details

Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours is based in Eldorado Canyon at the historical Techatticup Mine (try to say that three times fast!). It’s the oldest, richest, and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada.

Photo/video shoots: This is a family-owned location, it is privately owned and they like to maintain some form of order there. So if you visit, please be nice, be friendly. They are very easy to work with and the fees to wander around and shoot for you and your family or friends are very affordable.  About $10 an hour for the group. Yes, the group.  Unless you need special access or have an actual film “crew” there for a big shoot. Then the rates can change.  They will also close off certain buildings and locations for an additional fee.  Just ask.

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The New National Park Fees

As some of you may already know, The National Park Service (NPS) recently announced that on June 1, most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by five dollars.  Most other fees will stay the same.

It Could Have Been Worse

Back in October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed the idea of more than doubling peak-season admission at 17 popular parks to $70, and maybe even adding a surge pricing for the top 5 national parks.  The response to that plan was, shall we say,  highly negative.  People took to social media and the internet calling for everything but a revolution.  Some were wise enough to figure out that this was a proposal, an idea to start the conversation.  The Department of Interior was putting it out there to get feedback.

The original public comment period for the new proposal was to only be thirty days, but they needed to extend it to 60 days due to the overwhelming feedback they received. And even after that ended, they still received feedback from people all over the world as well as from Congress and other government bodies.  A lot of people love our national treasures!

Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park – North Rim

After much speculation and uneducated hysteria created by mainstream media and social media groups proclaiming this was a political move byPresidentt trump to gut the National Parks, it was finally announced last week,  that entrance fees at those 117 parks that charge a fee will go up on average of $5.00.

Not bad compared to what it could have been.  It won’t solve the problems generated by all the years of National Park mismanagement and playing political correctness, instead of focusing on their core mission.  But it is a start in the right direction and best of all, it won’t stop people from coming to see America’s greatest idea!

Most National Parks Are Still Free

Remember, we have 417 National Parks, Monuments, and Cultural/historical Centers. Only 117 of them charge an entrance fee. Meaning 2/3 of them are still FREE. 

More good news? The cost of the America The Beautiful Annual Park Pass and the Senior Lifetime Park Pass will stay at $80. Plus, Every Kid in a Park Program is still accepting 4th-grade students to sign up for their FREE annual park pass that gets the entire family into a park for free.

Free Park Pass to 4th Grade Students

Hey fourth graders! See America’s natural wonders and historic sites for free.

Getting The Parks Back in Shape

Starting in 2015, the National Park Services started a campaign to celebrate the NPS’s 100 anniversary in 2016.  To some, it seems like the marketing campaign went exceedingly well. Maybe even too good!  It woke a lot of people up to just what is in our own backyard and crowds started to appear at parks and monuments where there weren’t any before.  This put a strain on an already over worked system and one that was also dealing with major internal crises as well.

The Parks need help. Lots of it. They currently have a backlog of over $11 billion in needed upgrades, repairs and restoration projects to keep everything open and functioning as it should.  The new fee increase will bring in an additional $60 million to the National Park Service with 80% of the fee collected staying at the park it was collected at.

Interior Secretary Zinke is also working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for addressing restoration within the national parks. It’s a start!

  • National Park entrance fees to increase an average of $5 on June 1, 2018
  • Only 117 of the 417 National Parks/Monuments/Cultural/Historical Centers charge an entrance fee
  • America The Beautiful annual pass stays at $80
  • Senior lifetime pass stays at $80
  • National Park Passes information

Go Visit a National Park for Free

Go Visit a National Park

On April 21, its National Park Fee Free Day.  All National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone!

Want to go visit a national park near you?  Go to www.FindYourPark.com, put in your zip code and a list of National Parks, Monuments, and Historical sites will pop up with maps, directions, and information on what there is to see and do there.

National Parks Near Las Vegas

    • Red Rock National Conservation Area – technically not a national park, but they accept the National Park Pass!
    • Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
    • Lake Mead National Recreation Area
    • Death Valley National Park
    • Zion National Park
    • Bryce Canyon National Park
    • Cedar Breaks National Monument
    • Grand Canyon National Park
    • See the entire list here

 

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Grand Canyon West Helicopter Ride


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Recently I was cleaning up some old files and came across a video from a few years ago when I was on tour with a group that did the helicopter/boat adventure at the Grand Canyon West. This is one of two helicopter tours they sell as options.

You have the heli-boat tour sold by Sundance and Grand Canyon/Pappion and you have a Heli tour with Maverick Helicopter to the bottom of the canyon without the boat ride. Maverick instead offers an opportunity to walk along the river overlook at the bottom of the canyon.

For the Heli-Boat tour, you first board the helicopter at the airport,  you soar over West Rim then into the canyon.  This is a controlled airspace, all flights are on the same pattern and watched over by a control center.  Landing 4,000 feet below the rim on the banks of the once mighty Colorado River. From here, you board a pontoon boat and enjoy a ride on the river between the tall and narrow canyon walls.  The river guide gives you a little history of what you are looking at as well as the history of the river.

Drifting down the river, you just get this great sense of awe and wonder looking up at these sheer rock walls.  Then you are back on dry land and find your way to the helicopter pad.  Board the next flight out of the canyon.  Here’s where the video comes in.

Sorry for the quality, it was one of my first smartphones and this was not a planned event for me.  You do get the feeling of how it felt to fly up and out amongst the cliff walls and to see the canyon under and before you gives you a sense of its enormous size. The canyon is always an amazing sight to see no matter where you are.  To see it from the bottom then move up along its walls, you just suspend time and gaze at its wonder, and can understand its majestic power. Natures beauty on display.

Enjoy the video and please leave me your comments or questions below.

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