Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

Ron Niebrugge Las Vegas, Nevada, Photos, Travel 15 Comments

View of the Hoover Dam from the new bypass Bridge between Nevada and Arizona.

View of the Hoover Dam from the new bypass Bridge between Nevada and Arizona.

The Hoover Dam bypass bridge, officially named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge (after the late Nevada governor and the late Arizona soldier and football player) finally opened to vehicle traffic last week, and to people traffic a on an attached walkway a couple of days later.  The walkway does provide a great view of the dam, but isn’t for those with a fear of heights – you are almost 900 feet above the Colorado River!  I can’t help but think this structure will be a big attraction for BASE jumpers, bungee cord jumpers and people committing suicide – at this point there really aren’t any obstructions to such pursuits.

We have been watching the construction of this massive bridge for years – it wasn’t uncommon to see workers hanging high above the river on cables doing what appeared to be very dangerous work.  The need for this bridge became more acute after 9/11 when truck traffic between Arizona and Nevada was no longer allowed to use the narrow two lane road across the top of the bridge, thus forcing them to take a longer route between the two states.  Even without truck traffic, getting across the dam could often take hours because of the flood of tourist who came to see the dam – this bridge was to bypass all that mess.

You might notice the large bath tub ring around the lake behind the dam – Lake Mead.  This is a whole different story.  About a week ago, Lake Mead hit an all-time low thanks to an ongoing drought.  The last time the water level was this low was in 1937 as the lake was actually being created.  Since 1999, the lake level has dropped 130 feet!  If it drops another 8 feet, emergency measures kick in reducing Nevada’s water supply by 6%.   This is significant, as Southern Nevada draws 90% of its water supply from this lake according to a recent article in the Las Vegas Review.  If the lake drops another 33 feet, it will begin to drop below some of the intake tubes.

Ironically, after hitting this all time low a week ago, the Las Vegas area has received about an inch and a half of rain.  But if things don’t change, it is anticipated that new record lows will be set again by next May with the arrival of hot, dry weather.

Hoover Dam bypass bridge as viewed from the top of Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam bypass bridge as viewed from the top of Hoover Dam.

Comments 15

  1. Interesting story behind the photo. I didn’t realize Vegas was in such trouble. That bridge reminds me of the Glen Canyon Bridge on the Utah-Arizona border–I did not like it one bit!

  2. That is very impressive. Quite a change from a few short years ago.
    Nice photos as always, but a little disappointed that it does not have Janine sitting on the rail to help show the scale of the canyon. 🙂 On the other hand, since it is so high, perhaps Janine should have taken a photo of you on the rail!
    How much longer are you planning on being in the Southwest?

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    Hi Scott, Good point, I forgot about that bridge – this is very similar. I seem to remember a chain link fence around the walkway for that bridge – I hope that don’t have to do something similar here, but I’m guessing they will.

    Hi Calvin Thanks! Hey, Janine was able to walk across the bridge and back – that was pretty good for her!

    I think we fly home around Nov. 14, so we have a couple more weeks of good shooting, and then some time helping Janine’s family towards the end of the trip. Sounds like I’m about to miss some snow in Alaska!

  4. What a crazy view. Great post about the water, Ron.

    How did Janine fare with the heights? I went onto Hoover Dam as a kid and was nearly paralyzed with fear. Haven’t been back since. I heard the tour inside is cool though.

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    Thanks Dennis – it is worth checking out it you are in the area.

    Thanks Richard. Janine did pretty good – she stayed back from the railing a bit, but otherwise she did great considering her fear of heights. I did the inside tour many years ago, it was cool. Might need to go back with camera in hand.

  6. I have just discovered this blog with the assistance of Google Reader.
    Your images are absolutely wonderful. You have an instant fan.

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  8. That’s an impressive bridge! Quite a view, must be an intense walk across that bridge 🙂 Remember seeing the beginning of the bridge when I passed the dam back in 2008. Water shortage seems to be a global problem, even here in rainy Norway water magazines for hydro power are on an historical low…

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  10. Such a fascinating image — its really amazing to see the difference between the water level before an after the dam. It makes me marvel at the engineering that went into designing it, in order to hold back that huge amount of force. And nice information about the water issues in Nevada as well. I’ve heard a few seminars on the looming water crisis for the Las Vegas area, and the prognosis was never good.

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    Hi Pat – Yes, the engineering that went into both the dam and the bridge is very impressive! It will be interesting to see how the water issue plays out – it doesn’t appear there is any end to the drought in sight. Thanks!

  12. I enjoyed this report on what Dad and others used to call “big dam foolishness.” The same guys and gals predicted this day would come when “Lake” Mead would drop dangerously low and render the reservoir even more useless than it already is due to evaporation and water waste. All of the Colorado dams waste far more water than expected and do more harm than good between the destruction of ecosystems and the beauty that lies underneath. The dams do assure one thing though: that Dad’s images of Glen Canyon will remain unique for perhaps at least another 100 years.

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    I don’t remember the actual percentage of Colorado River water lost due to evaporation due to lake like Lake Powell, but I do remember being shocked at how high of a figure it was! Your Dad’s images of that area are certainly going to remain unique and rare!

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