Congress authorized the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and the Bureau of Reclamation was given the task of building it. The location of the dam was determined by a group of Bureau of Reclamation engineers and geologists. This group worked from 1946 to 1948 examining different areas. Eventually, Glen Canyon was chosen for several reasons. The basin could contain an immense amount of water, the canyon walls and bedrock were strong and stable and a substantial source of rock and sand were located nearby for the dam’s construction. The dam is located about 20 miles upriver from the boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park.
By 1959, the Glen Canyon Bridge was built to transport equipment and supplies needed for the dam and its workers. The following year, construction began on the 3,700-foot dam with blocks of concrete reaching 7 feet high. The concrete construction continued day and night for three years. It is estimated that over five million cubic yards of concrete make up the dam and the power plant. This equals to the construction of a four-lane highway stretching from Phoenix to Chicago.
The turbines and generators were installed from 1963 to 1966. Then on September 22, 1966, Ladybird Johnson dedicated the dam. Glen Canyon Dam holds back the second-largest manmade lake in North America at a cost of $260 million. Today the power plant generates more than 1.3 million kilowatts of electricity and provides electricity for the Pacific Southwest and the Rocky Mountain areas.
The sheer size of the dam can be realized with a water depth of 500 feet, which took 17 years to reach full pool. The 710-foot wall of concrete supplies power to the southwest and regulates the flow of water. The dam forms Lake Powell, one of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona.
Carl Hayden Visitor Center is located next to Glen Canyon Dam and is staffed by the National Park Service. The center has information on Glen Canyon Dam from its early beginnings up to the present day. Visitors will see exhibits describing the story of the dam’s construction. One popular exhibit depicts prehistoric mammals roaming this area during the Ice Age. There are films shown in the center. An observation deck outside the Visitor Center allows visitors different perspectives from Glen Canyon Dam to Lake Powell. There is also a large relief map of Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Page and the surrounding area, which is an amazing sight.
Visitors can take a tour of the dam beginning at the crest of the dam. The tour takes an elevator 528 feet down into the interior of the dam. The tour includes a video, photos and Native American artifacts. Visitors are asked not to bring handbags or cameras. This tour is a terrific activity for any visitor to the area.
The visitor center is open every day from 7:00 to 7:00 Memorial Day through Labor Day and 8:00 to 5:00 during the rest of the year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. You should plan on spending about one to two hours at the Visitor Center including the tour of the dam. For more information you can call 520-608-6404.
You can reach Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam by traveling two miles north of Page, on U.S. Highway 89. You can get to Page from Tucson or Phoenix by taking Interstate 17 north out of town to Flagstaff. Once you are in Flagstaff take U.S. Highway 89 north to the town of Page, which lies just south of Lake Powell. Page is approximately 395 miles from Tucson, about 277 miles from Phoenix and 136 miles from Flagstaff.