Dam facts about a popular dam near you

As I often say, learn from my mistakes and you’ll never stop learning.

When I relied on a story that said Hoover Dam was the world’s largest concrete structure. I soon learned that what once was true, now was not.

Bob Walsh of the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, politely set me straight.

“Hoover Dam is no longer the world’s largest concrete structure, either in terms of volume or height,” Walsh wrote. “In terms of volume of concrete, Hoover Dam lost that honor shortly after it was completed. Grand Coulee Dam in Washington, finished in 1942, contains 12 million cubic yards of concrete, compared to Hoover’s 4.5 million cubic yards.”

Another bragging right lost: Hoover was also the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant until it was surpassed by Grand Coulee Dam.

Hoover is still the highest concrete dam in the U.S., but not the highest dam in the U.S. That title belongs to Oroville Dam, an earth fill structure in California.  It is about 44 feet higher than Hoover.

Hoover Dam was surpassed as the world’s highest concrete dam in 1957 with the completion of the Mauvoisin Dam in Switzerland. Now there are others higher still.
For Hoover Dam, size no longer matters. It’s about popularity and Walsh was absolute about one thing. Hoover Dam is the most popular dam. Thanksgiving weekend was proof positive of that.
The day after Thanksgiving proved itself the most popular day of the year with a total of 3,668 tickets sold for tours or admission to the center, down slightly from 2007 when 3,828 people paid to play. (Some don’t pay, yet still park and play.)

Saturday was also down slightly with 2,955 tickets sold compared to 3,405 the year before.

Trivia question: How many cars crossed Hoover Dam the day after Thanksgiving? Drum roll: 12,487.

If you were tied up in traffic that day, this number may be worth remembering or cursing.


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