Friday, 14 October 2016

Mesquite, Valley of Fire and Hoover Dam (Part 7 of our holiday)

We flew from Dallas, across New Mexico and Arizona, to Las Vegas, where we were met by friends who live up the I-15 highway in  Mesquite, where the states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona meet.  After a day of relaxation, they took us out of their nice cool house into the heat (!), on a car trip to see the Valley of Fire State Park and the Hoover Dam.

The Valley of Fire State Park (spectacular desert scenery a mere 1 hour's drive from the concrete expanse of "the Strip" in Las Vegas!) is Nevada's oldest,  and derives its name from the red sandstone scenery, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs 150 million years ago.   Because of the high temperatures while we were there,  47C (116F), we took the Park rangers' advice and did not attempt any of the scenic hikes into the park; much too hot, so we therefore unfortunately missed the Fire Wave, which is about an hour's hike.  Worth looking up in the internet (here) though, if you are interested.
Entering the Valley of Fire!

Proof  from the car of just how blisteringly hot it was -  wobbly but all too true!! In the winter, temperatures range from zero to a balmy 22C (74F) and of rain, there is but 4" (10 cm) per year!

A natural rock arch, and an explanation below.......


A lizard, which I think could be a Chuckwalla, keeping to a small but welcome  piece of shade!

Amazing rock formations.


Atlatl Rock - An atlatl is a throwing device, usually consisting of a stick, fitted with a thong or socket, to hold the butt of a spear  and so project it further than by manual throwing. The Australian Aborigines had the woomera, but ancient American Indians also used these weapons.They are depicted in the petroglyphs (rock carvings) made by the local peoples located at Atlatl Rock.

Fine examples of petroglyphs. Ancient tribes occupied the Valley of Fire approximately between 300 BC and 1150 AD. These included the Anasazi, who were farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.The centre photo on the right above is of our friend Mary trying to work out some of the stories being told in these pictures. She's standing at the top of the metal staircase that you can see in the last picture.

Just a hop down the road by American standards, is the Hoover dam. After very lengthy discussions and agreements as to how the Colorado River water was to be managed and shared among the peoples living in its enormous basin, construction of the dam was begun in 1931. A fine infrastructure project for the country, and another triumph of its engineering, as the economy began  to recover from the Great Depression.

The wall, for which the last concrete (to total 3.25 million cu.yds or 2.6 million cu. metres) was poured in 1935. It was the greatest dam of its day and despite the remoteness and arduous working conditions, the contractor, Six Companies Inc  completed the project two years ahead of schedule and below budget! A lesson for these days!

A distant view of the "new" bridge spanning the gorge above the generating plants on each river bank. Today, as a result of the drought which the Colorado River basin has experienced for the past 15 years, Lake Mead has dropped to its lowest level since it was first filled in the 1930s!

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is 1,905 feet long and carries road traffic over the gorge, nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River.  It is the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere as well as being the second-highest bridge of any type in America. The gantry on the right is, I believe, the last surviving crane used for the construction of the dam wall 85 years ago.

Looking down at one set of 8 generating plants, which were completed in 1935-36. A 17th generator was added in 1961 to the 16 already in operation.

Inside the spotless generator hall. The absolutely huge numbers of people taking guided tours were most efficiently handled by teams of genial staff, skilfully shepherding them where required, seemingly without effort!

Diagrammatic layout of pipes and shafts.

The "Winged Figures of the Republic" are iconic sculptures on the Nevada side of the Hoover Dam. Sculptor Oskar Hansen made the figures in 1935 from more than four tons of bronze. They sit on bases of black diorite, either side of a 142 ft. high flagpole.
The figures have weathered to a green patina, but the toes are burnished to a soft gold by the touch of countless tourist hands. Rubbing the toes is supposed to bring good luck!
In an interesting astronomical touch, the monument is set onterrazzo celestial chart which shows the exact position of major stars on the day the Hoover Dam was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt. The star map would supposedly assist a future civilization of giant flying humans or other aliens to pinpoint the date as 30 September 1935!!

This larger-than life sculpture of a man scaling a rock wall represents a "high scaler." In the early 1930s, fearless, eager-to-please-in-a-depressed-economy dam workers would dangle hundreds of feet in the air, armed with jackhammers to drill holes in the canyon walls for dynamite to blast away unwanted rock. The bronze figure was created in the 1990s by sculptor Steven Liguori. Onward and upward!


Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016)  

26 comments:

  1. It's been nearly 40 years since I've visited Hoover Dam! Your pictures are lovely. I'm glad you had a good visit despite the extreme heat.

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    1. I doubt if the dam has changed since you last saw it but the surrounding area would have. Yes it was a little on the warm side but we had a fantastic day. Keep well Diane

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  2. I've recently read a book by a chap who, as a young man, paid for his education by working as a high scaler....I have a feeling he became an Olympic rower but cannot for the life of me remember the book title or his name...
    I saw petroglyphs when in Nicaragua - luckily in far cooler conditions! I don't envy you getting out of that car in that heat!
    What a wonderful trip you have been having...

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    1. Ha ha yes it was certainly hotter than what we are used to even after living in RSA for so many years. I loved the Bushman paintings in South Africa and the wall art in Australia, they are all quite different. The book sounds interesting! Hope you are both well. Diane

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  3. Wow what an informative post. We flew over the Hoover Dam in a helicopter so it was good to have a detailed visit. It was a shame that it was too hot to visit the Valley of Fire, they looked amazing on the linked site. A 15 year drought....not good.

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    1. We did drive through the Valley of Fire and got out for very short walks but that was all we could manage. The Colorado river is amazingly low, quite scary. Have a good day t'other Diane

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  4. Hi Diane - fascinating photos and story line ... lovely different shots you've given us - thanks ...yes that would have been way too hot for me ... and snippets - the celestial time for some high flying beings at some future date ... it looks an amazingly interesting place to visit ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary it was a great trip and lots of interesting snippets around. Pity that it had not been a little cooler but it was what it was!!! Hope all is well Diane

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  5. Two amazing places. I seem to remember driving over the Hoover Dam on our first trip across country. It is a fuzzy memory. I will have to do it again :)

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    1. Fuzzy memories you need to renew and take in the Valley of Fire at the same time but I suggest a cooler time of the year!!!! Keep well Diane

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  6. Two years back we went Las Vegas, and Hoover Dam, but didn't go to Valley of fire.. in near future we have to plan to go..

    Please visit: http://from-a-girls-mind.blogspot.com

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    1. Valley of Fire is well worth a visit but in cooler weather than what we experienced! Have a good week Diane

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  7. Wow fantastic photos. What a trip, it looks so interesting and I would have loved to see those petroglyphs. X

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    1. Maggie I love the old rock paintings, I was fascinated by them in Africa and Australia now I have seen a different version. We had a great trip. Diane

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  8. Those red rocks could be Australian - although we dont really get enough rain most years for big dams like that!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. That dam is in trouble as the Colorado is suffering from serious drought. I don't know how much longer it can hold on for supplying so much electricity! Have a good day Diane

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  9. I've been to the Hoover Dam once and it was so amazing. I couldn't believe how massive it is!! I really love seeing the petroglyphs - how neat it must of been to see them in person.

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    1. Thanks Pam, the petroglyphs are amazing and how artistic people were so many years ago with pictures and story telling. Have a good week Diane

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  10. Another super post, Diane. The scenery in the first half is absolutely fabulous, but such a pity that you missed the amazing Fire Wave - yes, I followed your link, thank you.

    Then you give us interesting information on the Hoover Dam.

    All this accompanied by excellent photography.

    A super post!! Best wishes - - - Richard

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    1. Thanks so much Richard for the kind comment and glad you enjoyed this post. It was a pity we missed the wave but at 47C it did not seem practical!!! Glad you followed the link. Take care and have a good week Diane

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  11. Goodness 47C , I know what that's like Diane..you definitely made the right decision not to do the hike, although the slide show of the rocks is incroyable! The Hoover Dam is an amazing piece of engineering. The size and magesty of the Winged Figure of the Republic reminded me of some of the many magnificent sculptures we saw in Egypt.

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    1. I am not sure I remember it that hot even in Africa! I could never live there as my lungs react to air-con, and after having Pneumonia 3 times I will keep to 40C and less if possible! It was an amazing place though and it was interesting seeing different rock art to what we saw in Africa and Australia. Keep well Diane

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  12. Really too bad it was so hot in Nevada as the hiking in Valley of Fire is superb. An excuse to come back? ;) Love the art deco at the dam but no desire to tour it.

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    1. I am really sad we did not see the Wave but...... The dam was interesting though not the sort of thing that is really 'my scene' but when in the area we wanted to see as much as possible of the local 'things'. I doubt if we will ever get another chance, but then one must never say never :-)
      Stay safe and warm Diane

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