Day Trip from Las Vegas – Hoover Dam

The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge

The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge) when under construction - Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When you visit Las Vegas, there are lots of things to do that don’t involve gambling, shows and glitz. One popular place for visitors is the Hoover Dam. This amazing structure holds back the mighty Colorado River. Behind the dam is Lake Mead, a water sports and recreation destination. The dam is located right on the Arizona – Nevada border. Map.

Driving Across Hoover Dam and the Colorado River
A few years ago it was exciting to drive across the Hoover Dam. One year, I was headed through Arizona and across the dam into Nevada. At that point in time, there was no alternative for crossing into Nevada except via the dam. But now with the bypass completed, the Arizona approach to the dam is closed and you must approach from the Nevada side.

You can now drive straight across on a 900 foot high bridge. The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge) is clearly the most impressive part of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. Construction on the nearly 2,000 foot long bridge (with a 1,060 foot twin-rib concrete arch) began in late January 2005 and traffic began using the Hoover Dam Bypass on October 19, 2010.

This amazing bridge spans the Black Canyon (about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River. When this was being built, I looked up and swore I’d never want to drive across it, but it is much more convenient if you don’t want to tour the dam.

If you really are afraid of heights, you can use U.S. Highway 95 and Nevada State Route 163/Arizona State Route 68 through Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona, to cross the Colorado River to the south. This route adds about 23 miles to travel from Arizona to Las Vegas.

Walking on the Dam Bridge
Now, you need to visit the dam from the Nevada side. Visitors can access the bridge from a Pedestrian Plaza inside the Hoover Dam security zone (vehicles are subject to inspection prior to accessing this site).

A parking area for approximately 70 vehicles is provided near the bridge in Nevada just past the security checkpoint; a set of stairs and access ramps lead to the sidewalk across the bridge. Several interpretive stations are available along the walkway that features panoramic views of Hoover Dam, the Colorado River, and Lake Mead. Access to this area is only available during daylight hours.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam - Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose

Hoover Dam Tours
The Bureau of Reclamation has conducted tours through the Hoover Dam and power plant since 1937. Today, close to 1,000,000 visitors a year take the tour.

You’ll choose between the Power Plant Tour and the Dam Tour. The guided Power plant Tour takes about 30 minutes, while the Dam Tour lasts nearly one hour. If you take one of these guided tours, and want to discover all the other features at Hoover Dam (not included on the guided tours), plan about two hours or more for your entire visit.

This is a popular destination so purchase tickets ahead and, if possible, go during the week. The slowest months for visitation are January and February. The least crowded time of day for tours is from opening until 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. until closing. Tour and ticket information.

You can go to the Visitors Center, see the exhibits, views and video without taking a tour but there is a charge. There is also a charge for using the parking garage. This is one place where you should plan ahead when visiting. Be sure and read all the information on the website so you know the hours, fees and what you can expect to see. It is well worth it!

More Information
Hoover Dam Website
Hoover Dam Bypass Website