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 on a terrazzo 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!