Leaving Lake Havasu City we drove to Boulder City, Utah for a six night stay. Boulder City (pop 15,600) is a lovely city which was built in 1931 to house workers contracted to build Hoover Dam, formerly called Boulder Dam. Previously, men who hoped to work on the Dam were living with their families in tents and shacks on land chosen as the site of the Dam. The town was built by the Bureau of Reclamation as the “Boulder Canyon Project Federal Reservation”. Federal rangers maintained law and order on the “reservation”. Boulder City is very rare in that it was fully planned under government supervision. The town was designed to house around 5,000 workers and the status of the workers was reflected by the size and location of their house. Commercial development was restricted and severely limited by a stern, iron fisted city manager. There was no provision for schools at first because it was assumed only single men would be working on the Dam. No hospital was built for years with injured workers taken to nearby Las Vegas. When a hospital was eventually built, it was a number of years before females were allowed to be admitted. Visitors to Boulder City had to go through a gatehouse, and gambling was prohibited. Today, Boulder City is one of only two Nevada cities which prohibit gambling. Alcohol was prohibited until 1969. Las Vegas had campaigned to have the workers housed in Las Vegas but because of its rowdy, risqué reputation, it was passed over in favor of Boulder City. Today Boulder City is very proud of its nickname “Home of Hoover Dam”. The federal government gave up control of Boulder City in 1959 when it was incorporated.
We visited the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum located inside the historic Boulder Dam Hotel. The hotel, built in 1933, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s the hotel was the accommodation for Shirley Temple, Betts Davis, Howard Hughes, Will Rogers, Boris Karloff and other celebrities who came to see the Dam being built. The museum had an excellent movie and exhibits on life in Boulder City in the 1930’s as well as the construction of the Dam. Working conditions were hard and treacherous to say the least. Because of a fine of $3,000 for every day the construction ran over deadline, the men were pushed to the limit and often competitions were used to push the men even harder. Occurring in the days immediately after the Great Depression, men were afraid to complain of unbearable heat and working conditions for fear of being fired. Only American citizens could work on the Dam which essentially meant whites only. In 1932 only a few African Americans were hired but were not allowed to live in Boulder City. This changed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected.
We enjoyed walking around the town doing some geocaching. Evidence of the town’s history was everywhere.
One day we drove to the nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This is the nation’s first national recreation area and the largest reservoir in the country. It was formed by the Hoover Dam in 1935 and provides water to twenty million people and farmland in Arizona, California and Nevada as well as some to Mexico. The Lake has not reached full capacity since 1983 due to water demands and drought. In August, 2017 it was only at 40%.
Our main reason for going there was to hike the Historic Railroad Trail. This trail is a portion of the former railroad route that carried supplies from Boulder City to Hoover Dam during construction of the Dam. The trail is no longer a railroad but has been replaced with crushed rock. Along the trail are panoramic views of Lake Mead. Hikers pass through five tunnels approximately 300 feet in length and 25 feet in diameter. The trail can take you all the way to Hoover Dam but on this day we had to stop at tunnel three because the tunnel was closed due to unstable conditions. Since it was a hot sunny day with no shade on the trail, we were okay with turning around at that point. We had walked 10,000 steps by the time we returned to the car.
We then drove to Hoover Dam. Back in Jan, 2015 we visited Hoover Dam and took a tour of the facility. This time we wanted to stop at the visitor area at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which is the first concrete-steel composite bridge in the United States and the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere. At 880 feet above the Colorado River it is the second highest bridge in the United States and the world’s highest concrete arch bridge. The bridge connects Arizona and Nevada. The visitor’s area, in Nevada was super busy with limited parking. I did the musical chairs game with all the other cars trying to find a parking spot. In the meantime Bill walked up the steep trail to the top of the Bridge. It was a very windy day and when he walked out onto the bridge he took his sunglasses off because he was afraid they would blow off his face! He took some great shots of Hoover Dam from the top of the bridge.
We then drove from Nevada over the dam to the Arizona side to have another look at this marvelous structure.
Another day we hiked around the Nature Discovery Trail and Rock Garden. We loved the beautiful rocks, desert flora and giant statues of desert animals. Plaques gave interesting facts about the animals and flora. Did you know jackrabbits can run up to forty miles an hour or that the roadrunner can survive its entire life without drinking water but receives moisture from its prey?
We finished the day by finding a geocache at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. We not only found a geocache but some great old trains too.
Railway Post Offices (RPO) were used to transport and sort mail using the hanging mail bag system. RPO were started in the 1830’s and ended in 1950’s.
We had a wonderful time in Boulder City.
Here is the link to our previous visit to Hoover Dam where we took the inside tour January 27, 2015 Boulder City, Nevada
Next up : Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada