Hoover Dam Construction

View of the Colorado River in Black Canyon prior to the construction of Hoover Dam, c. 1931. A boat can be seen navigating the river.

The construction of the Hoover Dam was the culmination of years of attempts to harness the power of the Colorado River. Past efforts at forcing the Colorado under human will had met with varying degrees of success. From Spanish missionaries to American entrepreneurs, the Colorado had offered a challenge. If controlled, the Colorado could irrigate countless acres of potential farmland.

After years of surveys and countless hours of planning, the United States government announced the Boulder Canyon Project. Consisting of a dam in the Black Canyon area and a canal to irrigate the Imperial Valley, the Boulder Canyon Project was the first of its kind in US history. The arid southwest would finally be made farmable and productive for the US economy. The Bureau of Reclamation had constructed previous dams throughout the American West, but none of this magnitude. The dam was to be built directly in the path of the powerful Colorado.

The logistics of the dam were mind-boggling. The river needed to be diverted for two years, and part of the riverbed excavated down to the bedrock. The project was to be funded both privately and federally. With the Depression crippling the country, capital for such an expensive project was hard to come by. However, by 1931 several investors made bids for the various contracts associated with the dam. The holder of the lowest bid, Six Companies, was awarded the contract for the construction of the dam for $48,890,955.