It’s a big country. Come along as we explore some of the most well-known, and maybe not so well-known, places in our vast Western states: Alaska’s Kenai Fjords; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Grand Canyon; Joshua Tree and Zion national parks; Hoover Dam; Arizona’s Antelope Canyon; Idaho’s Shoshone Falls. Some you certainly have heard of, others not. But what they all have in common is the capacity to astonish, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Included is information on how to get there from Bellingham or Seattle, and other valuable travel tidbits. Happy trails.
In 1900, the Black Canyon and Boulder Canyon area was being investigated to see if a dam would help with flooding issues, while providing irrigation water and creating hydroelectric power. The project was approved by the U.S. Congress in 1928, but in the midst of economic uncertainty that would lead to the Great Depression, one company wasn’t enough to fund it. Instead, different corporations came together to form Six Companies, which was granted the rights and funding to begin the dam in 1931.
Originally, the structure was called Boulder Dam, named for the canyon. However, in 1930, U.S. president Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Interior, Ray Lyman Wilbur, traveled to the site to mark the opening of the project. It was here he said, “I have the honor and privilege of giving a name to this new structure. In Black Canyon, under the Boulder Canyon Project Act, it shall be called the Hoover Dam.” Many people protested this decision, and saw it as Wilbur seizing an opportunity to flatter his boss and friend. When Harold Ickes took over as Secretary of the Interior, he changed the name back to Boulder Dam in 1933. The name switched again in 1947 when President Truman reinstated the Hoover handle, honoring the man who created it.
In 1984, Hoover Dam was dubbed a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was given this rare nomination (only 260 civil engineering landmarks exist worldwide) due to the technological advances of the time. It’s a popular side trip for visitors to nearby Las Vegas, just a 30-minute drive away.
Today, the dam provides energy to three states: California, Arizona, and Nevada. About 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power are produced by Hoover Dam each year.
Getting There From Bellingham
Fly Hop on a 2 ½-hour direct flight on Allegiant Air to Las Vegas, then drive about 30 minutes.
Drive About 20 hours.
Fees Or Permits
$10 parking fee for some parking areas.
Tour ticket prices range from $12 to $15. Children under three and military personnel in uniform are free.
What To Do
Las Vegas is just 30 minutes away.
Ride the Colorado River through the Black Canyon in Boulder City, Nev.
Catch a great view of the Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, Red Rocks Canyon, and more on your way down.
Places To Eat
Fox Smokehouse BBQ
Coffee Cup Café
What To See
The lake that feeds into the Hoover Dam is half in Arizona and half in Nevada.
If you don’t stay in the quaint town, it’s worth a drive through. In the 1930s, this town was built to house and feed workers building the dam.
Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
At 1,905 feet long and 890 feet up, this is the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the second-highest bridge in America.
Where To Stay
Milo’s Inn at Boulder
Boulder City, Nev.
Boulder Dam Hotel
Oasis Boutique Motel
Through April 27
Backstreet Boys at Zappos Theatre, Las Vegas, Nev.
The 1990s-era boy-band heartthrobs are wrapping up their Las Vegas residency at the end of April.
ticketmaster.com or backstreetboys.com
BBSC Rage Triathlon
Challenge yourself to a race in the desert. Once you’re done, celebrate with live music, food, and awards.
April and beyond
Aerosmith: Deuces are Wild
Catch the all-time favorite rock-n-roll band at the Park MGM Resort throughout April and into the summer.
Hoover Dam required a record-breaking amount of concrete — enough to stretch across the entire county. In order to cool all of this concrete, project engineers invented a super-sized refrigerator that produced about 1,000 pounds of ice per day. Without this giant ice box, the dam would have taken decades longer to build.