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Hoover Dam no longer a desert bottleneck

If you haven’t been to Las Vegas recently, you may be unaware that the monumental traffic jams that formerly accumulated on U.S. 93 at Hoover Dam are now a thing of the past. In the fall of 2010, the extremely impressive Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened over the gaping chasm, about 3/10 of a mile downstream from the dam. This replaced the narrow, winding and steep two-lane roadway that descended into Black Canyon, crossed the dam and ascended on the opposite side.

The original road itself was definitely on the challenging side, since you had to contend with tourists, local traffic and security measures that bogged things down even further. Unless one planned to travel across the dam well after sunset, a delay of a full hour sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic could almost always be expected. On top of that, motorcoaches traveling to or from such points as Phoenix or the Grand Canyon weren’t even allowed to cross the dam, but were detoured about 23 miles out of the way via U.S. 95, NV 163, and AZ 68 through Laughlin. It was a bad situation.

Now, traveling past the dam area is a breeze. Unless you are particularly observant when traveling by auto, or have access to elevated motorcoach windows, you’ll never even know that you are passing the dam, since high walls have been erected on the bridge to make sure that “rubbernecking” tourists don’t drive their cars into the canyon while attempting to get scenic views from above.

The good news is that a convenient parking lot, accessible only from the Nevada side, has been built for visitors wishing to experience the spectacular panorama of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Black Canyon and the Colorado River, almost 900 feet below the bridge. From the lot, it is an uphill but relatively easy walk to the 1,900-foor-long, six-foot-long sidewalk that extends the bridge’s full length on the other side of the aforementioned “high wall,” facing north. There is no better place to get the full measure of the dam and its surroundings.

Visitors on the Bridge Walkway

Informational Plaque along the Walkway