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What Is the Most Famous Dam in The US?

Last Update on February 12, 2023
by Sunny Samaroo
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Hoover Dam is the most famous dam in the US, by far. It's not just the most famous dam, it's one of the country's most popular attractions overall!

Millions of people visit the Hoover Dam every year on Hoover Dam tours, expanding the popularity of this massive dam. Wondering what all the hype is about? Keep reading to find out why the Hoover Dam is the most famous dam in the US.

View of Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam has cemented itself as one of the top attractions in the US.

Where is Hoover Dam located?

Hoover Dam is located about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Las Vegas, on the border between the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona. Specifically, it's on the border between Clark County, Nevada, and Mohave County, Arizona.

The dam is in the Black Canyon, which is a gorge that the Colorado River has created over millions of years. The dam has created a manmade reservoir of the Colorado River called Lake Mead

Why is the Hoover Dam so famous?


The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel. It was the tallest dam in the world when it was built. Although it's been dethroned by the Oroville Dam, it remains one of the largest dams in the United States. 

The Hoover Dam is 726 ft (221 m) tall and 244 ft (379 m) long. More than 3 million cubic yards of concrete were used to build it!

The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam, which is a design that has proven to be very durable over time. The dam has been in operation for over 80 years and continues to function as intended, providing hydroelectric power and controlling floods on the Colorado River.

View of Hoover Dam from Above
The Hoover Dam is an incredibly intricate structure that millions of people rely on.


Construction began on the Hoover Dam in 1931. It was dedicated by President Frankin D. Roosevelt on September 30, 1935. However, construction didn't fully end until 1936, five years after it began.

The Hoover Dam is a symbol of American ingenuity and resilience during the Great Depression. It's truly a remarkable feat that such a monumental creation came to be during such a harsh time.

Power Generation

The Hoover Dam generates hydroelectric power for the southwestern United States, providing electricity to California, Nevada, and Arizona

The dam's hydroelectric power plant can generate electricity at a high level of efficiency, using the force of the falling water to turn turbines that generate electricity. It generates about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That's enough electricity for 700,000 households!

Water Storage and Supply

The Hoover Dam has played a critical role in the development of the southwestern United States by providing water for the arid region, particularly the rapidly growing city of Los Angeles.

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, providing water and recreation opportunities to the region, particularly Arizona, Nevada, and California. Roughly 20 million people benefit from the water in Lake Mead, as well as huge swaths of farmland.

View of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Hoover Dam's Lake Mead not only acts as a reservoir, it's also an attraction in its own right.

Iconic Status 

The Hoover Dam is unique in its popularity. Other dams that have more flashy statistics, like the Oroville Dam (the tallest dam in the US) and the Grand Coulee Dam (the dam that produces the most hydroelectric power in the US) somehow haven't captured people's attention like the Hoover Dam has.

Several facts come together to give Hoover Dam its iconic status. It's considered an American icon due to its historical significance, engineering achievement, representation of the western states, and cultural representation through movies and tourism. 


Speaking of tourism, there is definitely a feedback loop at play when it comes to Hoover Dam's fame. 

Though it's genuinely an impressive structure, a big part of the Hoover Dam's claim to fame is just the fact that it's so famous! Beyond being just a functional structure, it's been intentionally promoted as a recreational and educational destination. 

The Hoover Dam receives over 7 million visitors each year. The dam's iconic status and historical significance make it a popular destination for tourists who want to learn more about American history and engineering. 

Visitors can take tours of the dam and learn about its history, construction, and operation. The dam also has a visitor center with insightful exhibits.

Related Reading: Is the Hoover Dam Tour Worth It? | MaxTour 

Woman at Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is one of the most photographed destinations in the US.

Is it worth visiting Hoover Dam?

Yes, visiting the Hoover Dam can be worth it for many visitors. The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel and a testament to the ingenuity of human beings. Visitors can take tours of the dam, learn about its history and design and gain a better appreciation for the scale and complexity of the project.

The Hoover Dam offers spectacular views of the surrounding desert landscape and the Colorado River. It is also a great opportunity to explore the area, including Lake Mead.

What to Know Before Visiting the Hoover Dam

  • Cost: There's no entrance fee for the Hoover Dam; you can walk around the top of the dam for free. However, most of the parking lots have a fee, except the furthest lots on the Arizona side. You should also keep in mind the cost of the official tours, which range from $10 to $30.
  • When to Visit: If you want to beat the crowds (and the heat) visit during the shoulder seasons of spring or fall, or the off-season of winter. Also, consider an early tour (the tours begin at 9 am) before midday.
  • What to Wear/Bring: Dress appropriately for the Nevada/Arizona heat. Regardless of the season, layers are your best bet. Also, wear shoes that are comfortable for walking and bring water, as well as your camera!
  • Things to Do: Don't just think of visiting the dam itself. There are plenty of things to do in the area. Visit the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for panoramic views, go on a boat ride on Lake Mead, and visit the Hoover Dam Museum in Boulder City.
View from Arizona side of Hoover Dam
Most people visit the Hoover Dam from the Nevada side, but the only free parking is on the Arizona side.

The Bottom Line

In summary, the Hoover Dam is a unique and historically significant site that offers visitors the chance to learn about American history, engineering, and culture. The construction of the dam was a huge undertaking. It was constructed during the Great Depression, which makes the scale of the achievement even more impressive.  

The Hoover Dam is a popular tourist destination that's worth visiting, particularly if you are interested in engineering or American history, or if you just enjoy visiting unique and spectacular places. Plus, its location makes it a great place to visit alongside other Southwest attractions!


Sunny Samaroo

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