Though we flew into Vegas to see Death Valley, we took today to see the 726-foot tall Hoover Dam, about 30 miles from Vegas. I didn't realize it's right on the AZ/NV border. The Dam was built during the Depression as a way to harness the water for energy and to store water from the Colorado River and control its frequent flooding. About 3500 workers daily toiled for only $4/day to create this engineering marvel (but that was actually a nice wage during the Depression).
The job was too big for one company to tackle so 6 companies did it together.
The 5 million barrels of cement used would normally have taken 125 years to "set" but this process was sped up by embedding pipelines inside the structure which were used to channel chilled water through for cooling. It was completed in only 5 years.
Officially, 96 people died during the construction of the dam but in reality it was probably closer to 700 -- those who died in the hospital later were not counted as "official." Carbon monoxide poisoning and heat were common killers. Living conditions at the time couldn't have been very comfortable. Workers lived in tents nearby which did not offer ample protection from the elements.
Today the Dam supplies electricity to:
-Southern California: 56%
-Southern Nevada: 25%
Out of all the electricity it supplies to Southern NV, only 3-4% goes to Vegas, and none of that to casinos, only residences. (Perhaps because it's owned by the government and thus does not make a profit and instead sells electricity only at cost.)
Today they were only operating 3 turbines but they've said in the summer when everyone's using the A/C, they often go to full capacity and run all 17 turbines.
The Dam itself holds enough water to equal fill the entire state of Pennsylvania to a depth of 1 foot. Lake Mead, formed by the backup of the water from the dam, is the largest man-made lake in the U.S.
This area of Nevada is the 3rd most seismically-active area in the country so it was constructed to withstand an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. It's built of interlocking concrete blocks and is held in place by water pressure from Lake Meade (either side is not attached). This is so it can, in effect, "float" in place in case the ground rocks. The dam is shaped like an arch because that is the strongest shape architecturally.
We were only 2 of about 1 million visitors to journey here this year. Will post more pictures when they're ready.