Get energized at the home of the Hoover Dam
The desert may seem dull to some, but there is so much more to this landscape than immediately meets the eye. When you visit this fun, top-rated city and historic attractions nearby, the natural beauty of the desert will blossom in vivid colors before your very own eyes.
Boulder City sits in the middle of the Mojave Desert and is known as the "clean, green oasis." Just 20 miles away from the glitter and glam of Las Vegas, Boulder City offers a pleasant, small-town atmosphere with lots of historic charm.
Visit the Historic Boulder Dam Hotel and explore the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum to learn all about the social and economic history behind the construction of this concrete marvel. Step back in time to the 1929 Stock Market Crash, when the Depression was forcing unemployed citizens to travel to places like Boulder City and Boulder Canyon to build the magnificent Hoover Dam. Many of these laborers made this life-changing move simply because it was one of the few places in the United States where men could scrounge up some work. Learn about the dangers the workers faced, the extreme temperatures they withstood and other interesting facts about the life these first-comers lived in the 1930s.
Climb aboard the Nevada Southern Railway excursion train at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. This is a ride on the rails back to the '30s, when the Union Pacific Railroad constructed the Boulder Branch Line for the Boulder Dam Project. For about $10 a person, riders can travel in air conditioned/heated Pullman coaches that date back to 1911 or in open-air cars for a 45-minute round trip along the old historic line.
Close by, Lake Mead National Recreational Area offers recreational opportunities year-round for boaters, fishermen, swimmers and water skiers. On land, hikers, bikers and campers can explore the vast desert terrain that surrounds this sprawling body of water. Formed by the famous Hoover Dam, the 110-mile-long Lake Mead is the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere. You'll never run out of shoreline to explore or fish to catch when you visit Lake Mead.
The massive concrete Hoover Dam harnesses the waters of the Colorado River and stretches between Arizona and Nevada in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. You can take a tour of the power plant and dam, which feature elaborate Art Deco designs on the spillways, four towers and huge generators. You can also opt to simply cross over the dam, assuming your vehicle meets all of the specified requirements.
Of the two guided tours, the dam tour lasts about an hour, while the power plant tour is only about 30 minutes long. Either way, you'll want to plan your visit so that you have at least two hours. The visitor center also offers a dynamic experience that is under $10 per person.
You will want to plan on getting to the dam early in the day rather than late, as pedestrians are not allowed on the top of the dam when it is dark. Also, it's good to remember that the busiest season (with the most crowds) is during the hot summer months of the year, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Did You Know?
Check out these fascinating facts about the Hoover Dam, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:
• At its base, the Hoover Dam is as thick (660 feet) as two football fields measured end-to-end.
• As many as 20,000 vehicles a day drive across the 45-foot-wide top of the dam between Nevada and Arizona.
• The 4.5 million cubic yards of concrete used to build the dam are enough to build a 2-lane road from Seattle, Washington, to Miami, Florida, or a 4-feet-wide sidewalk around the Earth at the Equator.
• During peak electricity periods, enough water runs through the generators to fill 15 average-size swimming pools (20,000 gallons each) in 1 second.
• Each of the 30-foot-wide penstocks (water pipes) can carry enough water to fill 900 bath tubs (100 gallons each) in 1 second, or 960,000 (12 ounce) cans of drink in 1 second.
Catch a Flight
Ready to conquer that fear of heights? Visit the Bootleg Canyon Flightlinez and ride on a zipline at speeds of up to 50 mph between desert mountains for a bird's eye view of the desert valley below. Sitting in a stable paragliding harness that is suspended from cable wires, you'll fly from the top of Red Mountain and gain a whole new perspective of the stunningly bright-colored mountains all around you. The tour offers four exhilarating runs. The knowledgeable tour guides share all kinds of fascinating facts about the area, including its natural and cultural history, all while en route to, and on the hike up, Canyon Hill. The eco-tourism company Greenheart, who brought the zip line tour to this area, has similar establishments around the world in countries such as Brazil, Belize and Canada.
Six miles from the beautiful Lake Mead, The Valley of Fire State Park is the very oldest (dedicated in 1935) and largest park of its kind in Nevada. With 3,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs, ancient trees and petrified wood, the Valley of Fire is a great place for photography, picnics, hiking and camping. The red sandstone formations that make up the present landscape date back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the region and when the great sand dunes shifted, followed by the uplifting and faulting.
There really is no other place quite like it, and it regularly draws people seeking refuge from the glam and glitter of Las Vegas. The Valley of Fire is a prehistoric place that was named for the vibrant colors of sandstone that populate it to this day.
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