Hoover Dam – Nevada / Arizona border U.S.A.

September 30th, 1935

The Hoover Dam was dedicated on September 30, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The dam was originally promoted by Herbert Hoover, an engineer and from the west.  The early project proceeded under the name of Boulder Dam, a name giving rise to Boulder City, Nevada; work staging area and city constructed for dam workers.

All of the following photographs, maps and documents in this specific post are in the Public Domain; many are available on other sites.  If you borrow an image from this site a credit to Qala Bist.com would be appreciated.

Map [2] 36:114  Lake Mead

This map shows the Degree Unit area map location of Lake Mead.  The lake is located in the politically designated states of Nevada and Arizona in the political jurisdiction of the United States of America (circa 2010).  Lake Mead is an artificial lake and an artificial reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River.

The hash lines through the lake represent the original course of the Colorado River which constituted the border between Arizona and Nevada.  Hoover Dam is located in the left hand corner of the map near the bottom map border.

Map [2] 36:114  Lake Mead – Map of the Southwest quarter of the degree unit.

This USGS Map shows the Degree Unit area map of the Southwest quarter of Degree Unit [2] 36:114.

Hoover Dam is in the center of this map, just above the extreme southern border.  Portions of Clark County Nevada and Mohave County Arizona are shown.

Looking up Black Canyon after the completion of the new dam – circa 1935.


Looking up Black Canyon – aerial view – after the completion of the new dam – circa 1935.

Nevada is to the left, Arizona is to the right.  The white streaks above the water are the scars left on the land from the bulldozing of everything in the way of vegetation near or below the waterline of the reservoir assuming a reservoir filled to capacity.  In theory the spillways are designed with sufficient capacity to prevent any water from ever going over the top of the dam.

Spillway diversion tunnel under construction at Boulder Dam site – circa 1934.

Two unidentified workers, working for the Big Six companies stand in the underground water channel designed to accommodate at least a portion of the Colorado River in flood, or to prevent floods.

Looking downstream at the now obliterated original bed of the Colorado River in Black Canyon – circa 1935.

The dam face is substantially complete, but the powerplant buildings and generators have not been constructed.  The riverbed is dry because the water from the Colorado River has been shuttled aside (and further downstream) through tunnels dug through the insides of the surrounding cliffs.

The Arizona Intake Towers at Hoover Dam – circa 1935.

A sense of scale can be perceived by realizing that the thin line of white at the base of the towers is ten feet high.  Usually one can only see the tops of these twin towers if one visits they damsite in Arizona; most of the towers are hidden below the water of Lake Mead.  The curvature of the reservoir side of the dam can be seen.  The theory is that the pressure from the water pushes the sides of the dam into the rock walls of the canyon making it almost impossible for the dam to ever move.

The Hoover Dam site from the air – circa 1936.

In this photograph Arizona is to the left, Nevada is right.  On the Arizona side can be seen the enormous water intake for the primary spillway.  On the Nevada side is the secondary spillway and further up the mountain the structures for the emerging electrical substation works that will send the power of the harnessed energy from falling water into the enormous grid that will make a new southern California and central Arizona possible.  One river, one dam, one totally unappreciated device for the total transformation of the entire region.

Hoover Dam will breed numerous other dams along the Colorado and in the west; just like it was bred from that one dam in the beginning named “Derby” on the Carson River; the dam that Senator Newlands (of Nevada) claimed “would make the desert bloom”.  The Derby Dam did not destroy the free-flowing Carson River, but it did flood the Warren Shelton Clayton house (Honey Lake Smith place) and the place where Mark Twain stayed so he might write about the flooding river.

These “reclamation projects” created the California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington we know today.  The dream of the deserts blooming was spread too to Afghanistan; full circle; for in Afghanistan and in the Helmand Valley the desert had bloomed a thousand years before; before all the irrigation systems collapsed; in a history unknown until once again Fred and the Americans came in.  Had only Newlands known; he might well have reconsidered, and the Newlands Project might have remained “just a dream”.

The Colorado River river basin – the Bureau of Reclamation conquest of Arizona – circa 1935.

If political maps were “green” they would be drawn (and named) to reflect river basins and nothing else.  Water flows down hill; nobody lives on the absolute mountain tops.  Rivers as borders make no sense, two sides, one water.  So here you see the real “Arizona”, a new map after so many years of straight lines and other nonsense from Madrid, Mexico City, and Washington.  Of course Utah and Colorado might object a bit; New Mexico would probably be just fine.

What you see here too is the plan for irrigation; “let the desert bloom”, build dams and stop up the rains and the water and let it trickle down to corporate and other farms.  We’ll need farm workers of course, by the millions, maybe work cheap like slaves; this is the south – south of the Mason- Dixon line mostly.  History is so complicated and yet so simple.  Study the map – you might learn something!

The Plan of the Power House – printing money – circa 1935.

It was Andrew Halladie, inventor of San Francisco’s cable cars that first envisioned bringing the power of the mountain rivers to the coastal cities via his invention of wire rope.  He and his father were from Switzerland, so why not?  Makes sense.  It was a fortunate (or unfortunate) mix of rivers, water, emigrants, and immigration that brough the Halladies here.  San Francisco might not have her cable cars and Hoover (dam or is it “damn”) would not have its power house.  It would be a dam about just water, not the electrical society thing.

The turbines on the left are numbered with the “N” for Nevada.  The right-hand turbines of course are “A” for Arizona.  This was the diagram for 1935.  The turbines have grown a lot since then; bigger, added more.  Running a turbine is like printing money; you take everybody’s water, collect it, compress it, and send it thru this handy little device and sell the output (the power) like you owned it.  That’s the problem with power and rivers and dams; they take what does (or should) belong to everybody and consolidates it into wealth for just the few – that’s why they called it “The Big Six” – electrical utility companies are NOT your friends.

And a government that creates and protects these people and corporations is NOT your friend either.

The Hoover Dam Plan and an illustration of the works – circa 1935.

96 men died during the construction of the dam.  Safety conditions were horrible.  The “Big 6” worked for years to try to redeem their reputation.  The good news was that because the deaths at this Hoover-Rooseveltville were so appalling many changes were made so that at other big projects, like the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay Bridge, conditions were far safer.

The Hoover Dam Arizona side relief – circa 1935.

Here you clearly see the Arizona border at and within the dam.  Like the more southern border, get close but do not cross or the Arizona boycott people will be cross with you and I thought the point was that THEY don’t beleive in borders.  Oh, the irony of the thing.

But it is a fun picture anyhow; to see what you will be missing on the Arizona side of things if you boycott the state.  But if you live in California; remember – turn off the lights, don’t drink the water.

Epilogue: So this has not been your usual antiseptic tour through the Hoover Dam.  I haven’t showed you the art and artwork, you haven’t seen the postcards yet.  And yes, I do have newer pictures; I like dams, or at least I understand them.  Like elsewhere; we have the themes of land and water, rivers and broken treaties, what passes for progress and what really constitutes power.

There’s truth in engineering; I’m not sure it will make you free.  Reread all of the above, think about your answers, take nothing for granted because things have changed rapidly before.  The point is that it is only what you don’t know about (and think about) that will kill you.  So stay healthy; thank you for considering this post.

For more pictures and a different slant on things you might click here.

[First published 2010.05.19 / Wednesday  Hoover Dam at QalaBist.com]