Can You Still Go Down Inside the Hoover Dam?

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View of Hoover Dam

Named after President Hoover, the president during construction, the Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel.

It can feel mind-boggling to learn the history of the dam process, which provided a much-needed safety net to prevent more flooding in the region. 

Over the years, the dam has become a popular tourist attraction, providing free access to the public and paid tours to get more of an up-close look. Let’s learn more about what you need to know before visiting the Hoover Dam!

Where Is the Hoover Dam?

The Bureau of Reclamation, established in 1902, has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs throughout the 17 states that make up the West.

In the 1920s, flooding from major rivers was catastrophic. Therefore, in 1931, the Bureau of Reclamation opened bids for the construction of Hoover Dam.

The first concrete was poured in 1932. The first three generators went into operation in 1936. Finally, in 1961, the final power installation was completed, reaching a capacity of 1,334,800 kilowatts. The Hoover Dam helps prevent flooding, provides irrigation water, and produces hydroelectric power.

It sits in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River on the border of Nevada and Arizona. It impounds Lake Mead near Boulder City, Nev., and provides power for residents and businesses in Nevada, Arizona, and California. 

You can easily access the dam from Interstate 11/Highway 93. And it has parking lots on either side, which you can get to from the Hoover Dam Access Road off the main highway.

What Makes the Hoover Dam Unique?

The Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction. Each year about seven million people visit the site. The construction of the Hoover Dam was truly an engineering marvel. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before. 

Thousands of workers spent years between 1931-1936 battling summer heat and using unproven techniques to build the massive dam. Over one hundred lives were lost in the process.

Its sheer size also makes the Hoover Dam special. At the time of completion, it was the tallest dam in the world. 

According to the National Park Service, “Its base is as thick as two football fields are long. Each spillway, designed to let floodwaters pass without harming the dam itself, can handle the volume of water that flows over Niagara Falls.

The amount of concrete used in building it was enough to pave a road stretching from San Francisco to New York City.”

View of Hoover Dam

Can You Still Go Down Inside the Hoover Dam?

Yes, you can still go down inside the Hoover Dam. The one-hour Guided Dam Tour takes guests through the tunnels and passageways. 

The other two tour offerings don’t provide access to the dam, just the visitor center and the power plant on a 30-minute tour.

Does It Cost Anything to Visit the Hoover Dam?

You can see the Hoover Dam for free without an entrance fee. But any type of tour will require a paid ticket. 

In addition, parking may also cost $10, depending on which lot you park in. If you want more than just the view of the dam from the bridge, then you’ll want to get a tour ticket. Let’s explore some of your options.

Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour

The cheapest of the three tour options is the self-guided visitor center tour. It costs $10, which you can purchase online before arrival.

You also have the option to upgrade on-site if you choose to do the power plant or dam tour. This tour is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

At the visitor center, you can learn the history of Hoover Dam by walking through the narrated exhibits. From the Observation Deck, you’ll see the dam, the Colorado River, Lake Mead, and the Hoover Bypass Bridge. 

With this ticket, you’ll also have access to the original exhibit building, where you can learn about the region’s dams and power systems.

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Guided Power Plant Tour

Also wheelchair and stroller accessible, the guided power plant tour gives you the same access to the visitor center as the previous one but adds a visit to the power plant. This ticket costs $15, which you can also upgrade on-site.

Visitors walk through the original construction tunnels. You’ll also walk onto the viewing platform, which overlooks a 30-foot diameter penstock. 

Here you can feel the vibration as water rushes through the pipe. Finally, this ticket also lets visitors see eight commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse.

Inside the Hoover dam power plant

Guided Dam Tour

The guided dam tour is the only one that takes you down into the dam. This ticket costs $30, which you can only purchase on-site.

You can upgrade from the self-guided visitor center tour or the guided power plant tour upon arrival. This one is not stroller accessible.

In addition to the power plant and visitor center tours, guests who purchase this ticket will also visit the historic tunnels, ride the original elevator to the top of Hoover Dam, walk through the inspection tunnels, and view the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft.

Where Do I Park to Visit the Hoover Dam?

You have two paid options and one free option for parking. The parking garage is open from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and costs $10. If you have accessibility needs, parking is free. 

The parking garage can’t accommodate RVs or vehicles taller than 10.5 feet and 23 feet long.

On the Arizona side, you can use Parking Lot 9, which also costs $10 and is open from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. This is where RVs and other high-profile vehicles must park. Also, on the Arizona side, you can use the upper lots, which are free.

Keep in Mind: Are Arizona National Parks Worth Visiting? Click the link to find out!

Can Vehicles Cross Over the Hoover Dam?

The Hoover Dam Access Road provides access from both Arizona and Nevada and spans the dam.

Although most passenger vehicles, including buses and motorcycles, can cross over the Hoover Dam, it’s always a good idea to check current restrictions and regulations before heading out on your road trip. 

Semi-trucks are prohibited, and it has other weight and hazardous material restrictions. In addition, vehicles towing campers may get stopped for inspection.

View of Hoover Dam

Get An Up Close Look at the Engineering Marvel That Is the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is something to behold. Whether you visit for free or get a paid ticket, it’s worth a visit. The engineering of 100 years ago is mind-boggling.

The massive size of the structure will leave you speechless. So the next time you travel along Interstate 11/Highway 93 through Nevada and Arizona, make a pitstop to get an up-close look at this engineering marvel.

Have you ever taken a tour inside the Hoover Dam?

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