Just outside of Las Vegas stands the monstrous Hoover Dam! Built during the Great Depression, Hoover Dam draws visitors from all over the globe to witness this modern marvel. These Hoover Dam tour tips will help make your visit full of wonder and a memorable adventure.
It’s almost an automatic for anyone who visits Las Vegas to take a tour of Hoover Dam. Opened in 1936 after it took 5 years to build during the Great Depression, now Hoover Dam is a modern marvel fixture of the desert southwest.
Today, Hoover Dam is listed as a National Historic Landmark and considered to be one of the Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. And, ironic to note, Las Vegas wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the building of Hoover Dam. All those magnificent lights that line up on the strip are actually powered by the dam.
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12 Hoover Dam Tour Tips While Visiting Las Vegas
About Hoover Dam
Located on the Colorado River bordering Nevada and Arizona, the awe-striking massive Hoover Dam is a popular tourist destination near Las Vegas. Over 7 million visitors flock to the dam each year. And the the Bureau of Reclamation tour draws close to 1 million.
Since completion of construction, Hoover Dam has been hard at work channeling and rationing water for industry, farming and residential uses.
But also, Hoover Dam is a major player in generating hydroelectricity. The construction project cost $165 million and has since been repaid (with interest) through low cost hydroelectric power to nearby communities in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Today, Hoover Dam is managed by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation.
Construction of Hoover Dam
During the Great Depression years of 1931 to 1936, it took over 5200 employees to work round the clock to construct Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, about 96 men were killed (classified as ‘industrial fatalities) during the Dam’s rising. As questionably speculated, there aren’t any workers buried in the concrete.
Speaking of concrete, Hoover Dam is constructed out of concrete; 660′ thick at the base of the dam to only 45′ thick at the top. Construction logistics took about 5 million barrels of cement. And, it required 18 million pounds of structural steel, 21 million pounds of gates and valves, and 840 miles of pipe to build the dam.
The Dam rises over 700′, that of a 60 story building, above bedrock. It literally acts as a sealed plug holding back trillions of gallons of water into Lake Mead reservoir.
There are 4 intake towers, also constructed of concrete, on Lake Mead that funnel water down into shafts that lead to the drive turbines; thus creating power. Then, the water channels into the Colorado River and points south.
The Hoover Dam construction was actually completed 2 years ahead of schedule and surprisingly, close to $15 million under budget! (Like that would ever happen today!)
When is the best time to visit Hoover Dam?
The public can visit Hoover Dam daily from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm (PST). However, the Hoover Dam Visitor Center and Hoover Dam Tours operate from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Hoover Dam is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Take note, educational tours and school field trips take place Monday through Thursday at either 9:30 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. PST.
In my opinion, the best time of the year to visit Hoover Dam is in the winter months when it’s not so hot and crowded. Also, the best time of the day to tour Hoover Dam is in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Is Hoover Dam family-friendly?
While the whole engineering and architectural aspect of Hoover Dam is something everyone should see in their lifetime, your younger kids may get bored. But, if you insist on taking the family, treat them to picnic lunch, ice cream and a souvenir trinket to show their friends back home.
As you all are well aware, kids often desire to climb on benches, fences, exhibit barriers, guard rails, objects along the tour route, or even the canyon walls. These objects are unsafe for such activities; please stay on the paved walkways.
Also be aware that children under the age of 8 are not permitted on the Dam Tour as there are a lot of steps and boring information they may not be keen to listen to.
Is Hoover Dam Handicap Accessible?
According to the Hoover Dam’s Facebook page, “The Powerplant Tour, Visitor Center, and Original Exhibit Building are accessible for visitors with wheelchairs, scooters, or other mobility devices? Wheelchairs are available for rent in the Parking Garage for visitor use. There is a wheelchair pick up/drop off area on first floor of the parking garage.”
Also, a sign language interpretation can be requested for the Dam Tour with a minimum of 14 days advance notice. Guests will be contacted prior to their visit to verify arrangements. Tour scripts are available upon request.
Service Animals are welcome at the facilities and on the tour. This does not include ESA (Emotional Support Animals) or comfort animals.
Can I bring my pet?
Pets, even comfort animals or emotional support animals, are not permitted on the premises or in the facilities at Hoover Dam. Do not leave your pet(s) in unattended vehicles. (**I don’t know if this includes RVs).
However, as stated above, Service Dogs specifically trained to aid a person with a disability are welcome to accompany their person.
How should I dress for my visit to the dam?
All visitors should know that most of what you’re going to experience at Hoover Dam is outdoors. So, you’ll need to dress for comfort and safety; including your shoes. And, skip the flip flops or loose fitting shoes or clothing that may cause tripping or stumbling. There’s a lot of walking and steps.
Also, according to the Dam facility rules, inappropriate attire may result in admittance refusal or you may even be told to leave. So, no objectionable or obscene graphics or language are accepted on any clothing, bags or accessories. And, it always bears repeating, Hoover Dam is a family environment. This isn’t the place to wear sexually-suggestive articles of clothing.
Can I legally carry a firearm on Hoover Dam property?
Even if you may be legal carrying a concealed firearm according to reciprocity, you may not bring any firearms, explosives or fireworks anywhere onto the Hoover Dam facility. According to Firearms, Explosives and Fireworks are Prohibited at Hoover Dam per 43 CFR 423.30, you will be cited Law Enforcement and instructed to leave Hoover Dam property immediately.
Can I use my National Park Pass at the Hoover Dam?
Unfortunately, the Interagency Passes are not accepted at Hoover Dam. The America the Beautiful National Parks Pass and Federal Recreation Lands Pass are not accepted for Visitor Center or guided tours. Hoover Dam is self-funded and does not receive revenues through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
Hoover Dam is about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. When driving to Hoover Dam from the city, you’ll travel east on Flamingo Road or Tropicana Avenue to U.S. 515 S. This eventually converts into I-93 Southbound which takes you right to the dam.
Once you get out of Las Vegas, the drive through Boulder City opens up to gorgeous views of Lake Mead. Bypass the Lake Mead turnoff and look for the Route 172 Hoover Dam Access Road.
Approaching the Hoover Dam, you’ll notice the large parking structure in the canyon. However, read further to know where and what kind of vehicles you can park in any of the designated parking lots (it’s important!).
On a normal day, drive time from Vegas is about an hour; give or take traffic and busy times.
There is limited parking at the dam for about $10 (2022) at the dam’s parking garage. It’s open from 8:00am to 5:00pm (times are subject to change). Those with disabled person sticker or handicap placard is complimentary.
There is a height restriction on vehicles of less than 10′ 5″ and length less than 23′. So, you’ll have to remove your roof racks, roof storage containers, bicycles or kayaks back before arriving.
If the garage parking is full or your vehicle doesn’t meet the height or length restrictions, Lot 9 is open the same times as above and incur a $10 parking fee that can accommodate high(er) profile vehicles.
For oversized vehicles, RVs and vehicles towing trailers and campers, you must park in Lot 13 and 14 (free) further up the canyon on the Arizona side of the dam. Just know you’ll need your walking shoes as it’s a lengthy walk. We recommend bringing your water bottle; especially on hot days.
Also, if you’re bringing your RV, know that offloading or disconnecting trailers, campers, or pop-up campers is strictly prohibited on Hoover Dam property. Be aware, all RVs and vehicles towing campers or pop-up campers will be required to open compartments or extend their pop-up and slide-outs for inspection.
How much time should I plan for when visiting Hoover Dam?
Not including the time it takes you to park and walk to the visitor center, you’ll want to plan for a few hours to truly enjoy every facet of Hoover Dam.
If you and your family are going to take the self-guided tour, 2 hours should be plenty to take in the exhibits and walk around. However, if you’re going to take the actual Hoover Dam Guided Tour (tickets), you will want to plan an extra hour or so to your Hoover Dam adventure.
For us, we planned a whole afternoon to immerse ourselves in learning everything we could about Hoover Dam and take in the views. We took in lunch, looking at souvenirs and of course, we took a ton of photographs.
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What to see and do at Hoover Dam
There’s a lot to take in when you visit Hoover Dam. While the dam itself is the star of the show, you really should check out the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Constructed in 2010, it connects Hoover Dam on the Arizona and Nevada sides. It’s 3.5-mile corridor includes 1.2 miles of approach roadway in Arizona, 2.1 miles of roadway in Nevada and a 1,900-foot-long crossing of the Colorado River approximately 1,500 feet downstream of the Hoover Dam.
Even the bridge is an incredible engineering wonder that you shouldn’t miss. The bridge includes a pedestrian walkway that offers an amazing view of the Hoover Dam. And, what’s even more awesome is you can walk across the bridge for free!
And speaking of great views and a walk to remember, walking on top of the dam and looking down is just nothing short of amazing. Looking down is both exhilarating and scary at the same time. Get your camera out!
The Dam’s Observation Deck offers an incredible 360 degree unobstructed panoramic view of the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam itself.
Inside the 3-level circular visitor center, you can learn about the history and see the monstrous power system and how the dam works. Take your time perusing the many photographs, memorabilia and exhibits and videos highlighting the construction, history and operation of Hoover Dam.
Take a walk over to the Winged Figures of the Republic; a 30-foot bronze sculpture that flanks the 142′ flagpole. The sculptor, Oskar Hanson inscription, “the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific achievement.”
We highly recommend you take a moment to honor the workers who died while constructing Hoover Dam at their dedicated monument with inscription, “they died to make the desert bloom”.
Included with the small memorial is a tombstone for their canine mascot who died tragically years after the dam’s completion.
Also, take a moment to reflect on the extremely arduous work of the employees and the pittance they were paid (50 cents an hour!) to construct something so monumental.
And, if you’re a nature lover, you may enjoy some possible wildlife sightings such as Bighorn Sheep, eagles, hawks and other desert animals.
TRAVEL PRO INFO: Why was the memorial bridge named after Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman?
Hoover Dam Tours
Hoover Dam Tour Notes:
- The dam tour is not recommended for people with claustrophobia. Tours include elevators and constricted tunnels.
- Children under the age of 8 are not permitted on the tours.
- Service Animals (not ESA animals) are welcome on the tour.
- If you and/or your family are wanting to go on the Hoover Dam tours, know that you all will be screened upon arrival to the Visitor Center. All individuals will walk through a magnetometer. And, all bags, backpacks, fanny packs and purses will pass through x-ray and may require additional inspection by security personnel.
- Food and beverages must be in sealed containers and may not be opened or consumed inside buildings. However, water is allowed (and recommended).
Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour ($10 per person) includes:
- Immerse yourself in the history of Hoover Dam as you walk through our narrated exhibits
- Enjoy a 360 degree view of the Dam, Colorado River, Lake Mead and Hoover Bypass Bridge from the Observation Deck
- Visit the Original Exhibit Building with narrated 3D model of the region’s dams and power systems
- Get your tickets here
Guided Power Plant Tour ($15 per person) includes:
- Walk through original construction tunnels
- Visit the viewing platform overlooking a 30 foot diameter penstock – feel the vibration created by water rushing through the pipe
- See 8 of the commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse
- Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour
- Get your tickets here
Guided Dam Tour ($30 per person) includes:
- Visit historic tour tunnels and ride original elevator to the top of Hoover Dam
- Walk through the inspection tunnels at the center of Hoover Dam
- View the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft
- Guided Powerplant Tour
- Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour
- Tickets must be purchased at the Visitor Center
For more information on visiting Hoover Dam, visit www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam
View the Hoover Dam visitor map
Final thoughts on planning your visit to Hoover Dam
So, are you ready to visit Hoover Dam? This modern marvel will prove the tenacity of hard work and dedication of those who built this monstrous engineering wonder. Everyone should visit this impressive landmark; especially those who relish the industrial revolution and all it does for America. We hope when you start planning your trip to Las Vegas, you include a visit to Hoover Dam!
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