Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Walkabout Wednedsday: Colorado River, Lake Mead, and the Hoover Dam

The computer is working.  For now.  I am not turning it off because I'm afraid that if I do it will not turn back on.  According to its self-diagnosis, there is a problem with the CMOS.  Or maybe the DMOS.  How would I know?  Despite those computer classes I took back in the early 1980s, I know very little about computers and technology.  Please don't ask me about my grades in those classes.  Let's just leave it at, "That is not my strength"!  Fortunately Mr. Marvelous is, as always, marvelous.  He took the critter apart, put it back together, figured out a very quirky temporary fix and ordered a new internal battery thingy so that (hopefully) it will be back to the point where I won't have to be afraid to turn it off.  Good thing.  I'd hate to leave it on all night and then find out what the cats are ordering on-line.  Although I guess if they are willing to use their own Paypal accounts I shouldn't fuss.

I told you last week that I had made it all the way to Lake Mead.  I found some interesting information and pictures that I wanted to share with you this week.

Lake Mead was formed when the Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936; another of the Roosevelt Depression era projects.  There are some fascinating documentaries available about the project.  I know that the Internet Archive has several short films here.  PBS did a good episode as part of their American Experience series that is available here (not for free).  The History Channel has several different short videos available here (these are free).  And Youtube has the National Geographic's 46 minutes special available here (these are also free).  It is fascinating to watch and learn about the building of this structure.

When you think about what was accomplished by the folks who took part in constructing this, and how they did it with just their own back-breaking labor it is impressive.

Lake Mead, when full (and it hasn't been for some time due to drought), has 759 miles of shoreline.  That is the distance from Atlanta to Philadelphia.  It holds (again, when full) 26,134,000 acre-feet of water.  That means that the water from Lake Mead would cover approximately the entire state of Pennsylvania to a depth of one foot.

Unfortunately, the lake is currently down quite a bit.  The information varies, depending on where you look, but the best I can figure is that while the maximum water volume is 26,134,000 acre-feet, the current volume is a little over half that.  Another statistic is that the maximum elevation is 1,221 feet and according to the Bureau of Reclamation: Lower Colorado the current elevation is 1107.  It is difficult to obtain consistent information but when looking at the current pictures, the lake level is down enough to leave a signature bath-tub ring and show some of the towns that were submerged when the dam was built.  It is interesting to note that it has gone through similar cycles of lower levels in other decades (data available from the Bureau of Reclamation here) (just in case you are worried about late-developing climate change)

In 1948 A B-29 Superfortress lost altitude, skipped along the surface of the lake and eventually sank.  All crew were able to evacuate into life rafts and were rescued several hours after the incident which was classified for fifty years.

Here are some pictures to share from the journey.

Lake Mead in 2003 showing depleted levels and the signature "bath-tub ring"

Photograph of Low Lake Level
Photo Courtesy of

 The town of St. Thomas was submerged when the dam was built
St. Thomas post office (left) and city street (right) flooding
Courtesy of Nevada Historical Society NPS

Lake Mead NRA, ORegon
Photo Courtesy of

The Hoover Dam, seen from a helicopter tour.
Photo of Hoover Dam courtesy of

It is hard to look at this and understand the size of that wall, but if you put two Statues of Liberty on top of each other, the torch of the top one would just reach to the top of the dam!

And there you have it.  I'll be walking through Vegas next and then it is on to California.  

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