Day Zero - Las Vegas to Williams, AZ:
Jump to: Hoover Dam At Night
This was a trip that I threw together at the last minute. Okay, maybe I had 36 hours or so. I was on an extended vacation from work (a use 'em or lose 'em situation), and after a few days at home, I realized I couldn't take the boredom. But where could I go that would be simple, fun, and cheap?
I chose Sedona, Arizona, which is not necessarily a cheap place to vacation. It does, however, offer unlimited hiking opportunities which are free. I'd been there before, and knew there were plenty of places to see that I had missed. And to handle the "cheap" part, I stayed in Cottonwood, about 20 minutes away.
My flight arrived in Las Vegas in the late afternoon. My hastily prepared plan took me to Williams, Arizona for the first night, then on to Sedona on the first "real" day of the trip. With the sun setting as I left Las Vegas, I was looking forward to seeing something I had seen many times, but never at night: Hoover Dam.
From Las Vegas, take Interstate 515 south/east. The freeway ends, and US 93 continues over Hoover Dam, into Arizona, and eventually on to Interstate 40. After you meet up with the interstate, Williams is still 112 miles away--a distance I underestimated, making for a very long drive.
Hoover Dam is lit brilliantly at night. I guess they don't have to worry about the power bill.
Your best viewing points will be on the Arizona side, after you've crossed the dam.
In the picture above, notice the bridge support piers in the upper left hand corner. This is part of what will one day be a magnificent arch bridge that crosses the Colorado River. Construction at night (or even the day, for that matter) could delay traffic, so be prepared.
The new bridge has proven to be a nightmare for engineers, and the project is terribly behind schedule. On my way to the dam, I passed a huge road construction sign that warned of traffic delays "From 2004 to 2008"... or something like that. I laughed, because I remember seeing that very same sign back in 2004, and thinking that the project would certainly be complete, after so many years.
You can find the latest on the bridge's construction and possible delays on this website. There are also some good photos of the work that's already done, as well as a timeline that declares the project "on schedule" (now that they re-estimated the completion date, pushing it back to late 2010).
I imagine nighttime pictures would be better, if the water level in Lake Meade wasn't so darned low (as of 2007). Several years of drought have left the water supply depleted, meaning those beautiful reflections of the intake towers are deep in the canyon, instead of near the top like they should be.
As you drive uphill on the Arizona side, you'll find another good viewpoint. I was a little concerned about taking pictures, given the tightened homeland security measures, but no one hassled me.
Hoover Dam was my only stop on the way to Williams. There's not much light out in this part of the country at night, so there's not much to see after dark.
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