Southwest Destinations – Visiting Hoover Dam

If you’re visiting the Southwest, Hoover Dam ranks as one of the region’s top tourist destinations. From the observation deck of the engineering marvel, you get a bird’s eyes view from a structure that stands for growth, prosperity and the tenacity of the American spirit.

Located 30 miles outside of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is a marvel for more reasons than one. At one time, Hoover Dam was the tallest reservoir in the world. Now as no. 2, Hoover Dam stands tall in an arid, dry climate that makes Las Vegas summers seem like rainy days. The Dam has also been the subject of urban legends. During the construction of the Dam, close to 100 workers died on the project. This number stems from work-related accidents, such as drowning and or falling rocks. This lead to the popular belief that the people that died working on the Dam were buried inside the walls of the Dam. This has proven to be false, but like most legends, the story still lingers.

Hoover Dam came about during the Great Depression, as part of an effort to provide water and power to the area. While the plans for the dam began in the early 20th century, the dam itself was not finished until 1935. It offered a surge in employment during a time where work was scarce. As a result, the surrounding area saw a boom in its population. Boulder City became the home of many of the dam’s employees while others trickled into Las Vegas.  Hoover Dam became a target of the Germans during World War II while under construction.  Thanks to extensive security measures enacted by the Army, Hoover Dam was never touched.

Hoover Dam is a great place to visit, especially if you have children. The history of the Dam and its environmental impact are outlined in detail, not only to the Southwest but to the country as a whole. If you’re going to the dam from Las Vegas, it’s an easy drive on the 95 South. At one time, driving through the Dam was a cause for concern especially for small personal vehicles. To make travel throughout the Dam safer and to protect the water supply, The Nevada and Arizona Departments of Transportation decided to construct an overpass. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in 2010 and has relieved most of the traffic concerns.

Things to do at Hoover Dam

There are two options for tours if you decide to visit Hoover Dam. The first option is the most affordable, is the Power Plant Tour. For eleven dollars (discounts are available), you travel hundreds of feet below ground to see the dam’s generators. You also get  to view the Colorado River and Lake Mead without obstructions. The other option is the Dam Tour. The Dam Tour provides access to everything the Power Plant Tour does, but also includes an intimate tour of the dam itself. It’s more expensive than the Power Plant Tour but it offers a much more in-depth look at how the dam works and the dam’s historical significance.

 

Southwest Destinations: Zion National Park

Zion National Park ranks as one of the most popular national parks in the United States of America. Located in southwestern Utah outside St. George, visitors flock to its jagged skyline throughout the year, taking in the scenic trails and green mountain peaks. Since Zion is only a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway. It’s a place to go for a weekend getaway, a long camping trip or a day trip.

The most popular time of year to visit Zion is spring and summer, but you can visit the park throughout the year. Some activities are or unavailable throughout the year, such as certain hiking trails, river trips and camping, but that doesn’t seem to slow Zion visitors down.

The entrance fee per vehicle as of 2016 is 30.00, which is standard entry for most parks nationwide. They offer an annual pass for 50.00, which is important if you live in the surrounding area. It’s important to know off-road vehicles are not allowed inside Zion National Park. If you have an off-road vehicle, Bryce Canyon would be a better option for you.

There are a number of things you can do inside and just outside Zion. Inside the park, there are various hiking trails, camp grounds and canyons to explore. Some of the popular hiking trails include the Watchman, Northgate Peaks and Angel’s Landing. The Watchman ranks as an easy trail, but Angel’s Landing is not for the faint of heart. Roughly five people have died from falling off the 1,488 foot tall rock formation. The park suggests children, the elderly, and everyone with fear of heights avoid this trail.

Canyoneering is another popular activity inside Zion. While it is an activity that the entire family can take part in, all canyon trips require permits. Zion Adventures offers courses in canyoneering and rock climbing for children and adults, and provides assistance to its clients in securing the proper permits.

If you decide to stay inside the park, the Zion Lodge offers motel rooms, cabins and suites for its guests. If you’re unable to secure a space in the lodge, there are a handful of bed and breakfasts outside the entrance to the park, as well as in neighboring towns such as St. George and Kanab.