In the ensuing years, Hoover Dam and Boulder Dam were used “interchangeably, the preference often depending on the political leanings of the speaker,” according to Michael Hiltzik, author of “Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century.” Finally, in April 1947, President Harry Truman approved a congressional resolution that officially confirmed the dam would carry Hoover’s name. fact 2: In the early 1930s, Boulder City, Nevada, was constructed to house 5,000 dam project workers. Before the city was built, many jobless men and their families who’d converged on the dam site, hoping to find employment in the midst of the Great Depression, had lived in squatters’ settlements. Boulder City was situated on federally owned land and had no elected officials. The city was run by an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (the agency responsible for the dam project), who had the authority to evict residents as he saw fit. Among the local rules, alcohol and gambling were banned. The Boulder Dam Hotel was erected to host dignitaries coming to see the dam’s construction; famous figures from Bette Davis to the future Pope Pius XII visited in the 1930s. After nearly 30 years, the federal government relinquished control of Boulder City, which was incorporated in 1960.
Surveyors originally recommended the dam be constructed at Boulder Canyon, leading the initiative to be called the Boulder Canyon Dam Project. Even when Black Canyon later was deemed a better location for the new structure, it continued to be referred to as the Boulder Dam. However, on September 17, 1930, at a ceremony in Nevada to mark the start of construction on a railroad line to the dam site, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur announced the dam would be named for his boss, President Herbert Hoover, who had been inaugurated in 1929. In 1933, Hoover was succeeded in the White House by Franklin Roosevelt, and the new secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, no fan of Hoover, declared the structure would once again be called Boulder Dam. By that point, the name Herbert Hoover also had taken on negative associations for a number of Americans, who blamed him for the Great Depression. fact 3: Formed by the damning of the Colorado River, Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, covers about 248 square miles and is capable of holding some 28.9 million acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is equivalent to about 325,000 gallons). The creation of Lake Mead (named for Elwood Mead, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation when the dam was being planned and built) flooded the community of St. Thomas, Nevada, and turned it into a ghost town. The last resident of the town, which was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1865, rowed away from his home in 1938. Today, the reservoir supplies water to farms, businesses and millions of people in Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico. Lake Mead also is a popular site for boating, fishing and swimming; America’s first national recreation area was established there in 1964. fact:4
Rising 726.4 feet, Hoover Dam was the world’s tallest dam when it was built in the 1930s. These days, it’s the second-tallest dam in the U.S., having been surpassed by the 770-foot-high Oroville Dam in Northern California in 1968. The globe’s tallest dam is the 1,001-foot-high Jinping-I Dam in Liangshan, Sichuan, China, which became operational in 2013.
Hoover Dam’s power plant was the world’s largest hydroelectric station from 1939 to 1949. It has an installed capacity of 2,080 megawatts (MW) and currently generates around 4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of hydroelectric power annually, for homes and business in Nevada, Arizona and California. China’s Three Gorges Dam, which started generating electricity in 2003 and became fully functional nine years later, is considered the planet’s largest hydroelectric dam, with a capacity of 22,500 megawatts. In 2014, Three Gorges broke the global record for annual hydroelectric power production, generating 98.8 billion KWh of electricity. The biggest hydropower producer in the U.S., Washington State’s Grand Coulee Dam, completed in 1941 (a third power station was added in 1974), has a capacity of 6,809 MW and generates about 21 billion kWh of electricity each year. fact 5: Since the 1930s, U.S. Route 93 ran right along the top of the dam; however, the two-lane highway was hazardous and had grown increasingly congested over the years. In an effort to remedy these problems, construction began on a dam bypass bridge in 2005. Completed five years later, the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge measures 1,905 feet long and soars nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River, making it the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere as well as the second-highest bridge of any type in America. The structure, which cost $114 million, is named for Donal Neil “Mike” O’Callaghan, a Korean War veteran and two-term Nevada governor during the 1970s, and Pat Tillman, who gave up a professional football career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army in 2002; he died in Afghanistan in 2004