Boulder City, NV
Since we are only eight miles from one of the greatest dams in the world, we thought maybe we should take a day to visit the Hoover Dam. So one day we parked the Jeep in a parking lot next to the Historic Railroad Trail and headed out on our bicycles. The trail follows the path of a railroad built in 1931 to move supplies to the construction site of the dam. The trail goes through five tunnels that are 25 feet in diameter. They were oversized to fit huge penstock sections and large equipment being transported to Hoover Dam.
Along the trails there are a number of spots with great panoramas of Lake Mead.
After about three and a half miles the trail ends at the upper deck of the parking garage near the visitor center. From there you can walk along the sidewalks that cross the dam on either sides of a two lane road.
Up until 2010 US Rt. 93 crossed the top of the dam as it ran south into Arizona on the east side of the river. Through traffic combined with pedestrian and tourist traffic at Hoover Dam itself led to major traffic congestion on the dam and on the approaches to the dam. A bypass had been discussed since the 1960s but never got past the discussion stage. After 9/11, authorities expressed security concerns and the Hoover Dam Bypass project was expedited. Pending the completion of the bypass, restricted traffic was permitted over Hoover Dam. Some types of vehicles were inspected prior to crossing the dam while semi-trailer trucks, buses carrying luggage, and enclosed-box trucks over 40 feet long were not allowed on the dam at all, and were diverted to U.S. Rte 95 on the Nevada side of the river. The four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass opened on October 19, 2010. It includes a composite steel and concrete arch bridge, the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, 1,500 ft downstream from the dam. With the opening of the bypass, through traffic is no longer allowed across Hoover Dam, dam visitors are allowed to use the existing roadway to approach from the Nevada side and cross to parking lots and other facilities on the Arizona side.
Outside a gift shop/restaurant by the parking area is a sculpture of a “high scaler.” While suspended from the top of the canyon with ropes, high-scalers climbed down the canyon walls and removed the loose rock with jackhammers and dynamite. To protect themselves against falling objects, some high scalers took cloth hats and dipped them in tar, allowing them to harden. When workers wearing such headgear were struck hard enough to inflict broken jaws, but sustained no skull damage, the construction company ordered thousands of what initially were called “hard boiled hats” and strongly encouraged their use. This is the first use of what later became known as “hard hats” in construction.
After checking out the dam, we returned to the bikes and road a short distance to where pedestrians can use a sidewalk to go out on the new bridge.
From the middle of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge you get a great view of the Hoover Dam and the water held behind it.
The Historic Railroad Trail is a nice, almost flat 3.7 mile hike/bike ride one way. The trail is great for walking or riding a mountain bike. Our bikes are street bikes so it was a bit rough going in some places, but we made it without much difficulty. A visit to the new bridge and dam are a must do activity for visitors to the Las Vegas area. OK, cross that off our list!