After ten days in the desert at Quartzsite we sadly packed up to leave. We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to return in several years.
We headed back into California with a brief stop at a California agricultural checkpoint. Agriculture is very important in California so anytime you enter their state they stop you and ask what fruits, vegetables, nuts, plants and firewood you have with you. We had heard some RVers had oranges they had been given in Arizona and those were confiscated at the border.
Lake Mead Recreation Area
We arrived at the Lake Mead Recreation Area where we stayed for two nights at their Boulder Beach campground. We had a beautiful view of Lake Mead from our campsite. We visited the Lake Mead Visitors Center where we saw a movie and learned that Lake Mead is the largest man made lake in the United States and the largest reservoir by volume. Currently it is down about 40 feet from the severe drought. We could see the white oxidation line where the lake should be.
Towers that feed water from Lake Mead to the generators
Our purpose for coming to this area was to visit and tour Hoover Dam, known as one of the seven wonders of the Industrial Age. We made the very short drive from our campground to the Dam and paid for a tour. First known as Boulder Dam and later renamed after President Herbert Hoover, it is a concrete arch gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River half in Arizona and half in Nevada. While touring the dam you are at times in Arizona and then other times in Nevada. The Dam was constructed between 1931 and 1936, with its dedication in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The building of the dam was a massive effort involving thousands of workers and the loss of over a hundred lives. Our tour guide told us contrary to what some have said, there are no bodies buried in the concrete. Life was very hard for the workers with long hours and back breaking work. If they missed one day of work they were fired, so they worked sick or well.
Model showing top view of dam layout
Inside view of the Nevada generators
What a generator looks like inside. This one was currently under maintenance.
Our tour took us 530 feet down an elevator in 70 seconds to a tunnel drilled through the rock wall of Black Canyon. The tunnel was drilled in the 1930’s construction to the Penstock Viewing Area. Here we were atop one of the four huge thirty foot diameter pipes that can transport nearly 90,000 gallons of water each second from Lake Mead to the dam’s hydroelectric generators. We then got on another elevator which took us to the power plant balcony on the Nevada side where we had a panoramic view of the 650 foot long wing of the power plant where eight of the dam’s seventeen huge generators are located. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona and California.
Arizona generators in the top building and Nevada generators in the bottom building. We were standing in the bottom building during our tour
On both the Nevada and Arizona side are spillways that are designed to direct high water from Lake Mead around the dam and through tunnels in the canyon walls. The spillways are so large that a World War II battleship can be floated in each one.
We also visited the excellent visitor center where they had many audio, visual, and interactive exhibits as well as a very interesting movie on the construction of the dam.