Just a few days ago we biked past Hoover Dam, awed by the dam itself but also by the huge new Hoover Dam Bridge that finally rerouted the highway that used to run across the narrow top of the dam. It worked fine when the dam was young, cars were small, and people living out here in the desert were few. The new dam, bringing power and water to the region, soon put an end to all that though. Las Vegas exploded in population, and by the time the bridge finally opened in 2010 the highway across the dam had become a horrendous bottleneck and safety hazard.
Fortunately, I found a reasonably noteworthy rock as an excuse to tell you about it.
We’ve moved on to Arizona now, staying in Globe, an old copper mining town. We’re sleeping in a converted flophouse for copper miners, sleeping in a century old whore’s bed. Which is cool.
Even better though was our bike ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake, a body of water I wasn’t familiar with before. The lake was formed by the impoundment the Salt River by the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, another massive public work I’d never heard of either. In its own way, it’s nearly as impressive as the Hoover Dam. Built almost 20 years earlier, it was commissioned in 1908 while T. Roosevelt was still president. It’s primary purpose was irrigation and water control, but it also generated electricity. It was one of if not the first government run hydropower facility in the country. It’s huge too – at 357 feet high, I think it’s the largest masonry dam in the country.
And, like Hoover Dam, for many years it was part of the highway system. The main north/south highway through the Tonto Basin was a two lane road that ran across the narrow top of the dam, which was just wide enough for two model-T Fords to pass each other. That didn’t last long, and when cars widened the road became one way, and as traffic volume grew the dam became another terrible bottleneck in the desert. This continued for most of the last century, until finally a bridge was built across the canyon to reroute the highway. It’s a huge single arch bridge that reminds you of the Hoover Dam Bridge. And, it’s very bike friendly, fine to bike across and get a view of the dam (which sadly you can’t bike across) and a dizzying look down at the lake below.
I thought you’d like to know about it. It took some sleuthing, but fortunately I found a halfway reasonable rock by the lake as an excuse to post here.