Historic Railroad Hiking Trail


original welcome to las vegas sign
The original Welcome to Las Vegas sign, 1929-1931. A year after congress authorized Hoover Dam, Pioneer Painting Co. built this arch over Fremont St at Main. “A lot of them wanted to know why we put it up there. Well, it was to advertise the Dam, the same as what Reno had – ‘the Biggest Little City in the World’ – this was the same thing.” – Charles Aplin. The sign was dismantled April 1931. Photo courtesy of vintagelasvegas.com

Las Vegas is mostly known to contemporary visitors as the grand parade of eye-popping glitter bouncing off the super-heated asphalt floor of Las Vegas Blvd. which beckons the average tourist to try their hand with Lady Luck.  Have you considered venturing out and hiking the historic railroad trail? Most would not know that the Hoover Dam was the original primary marketing component to announce to the world that this gathering of misfits in the desert were to become a source of national pride in the construction of the Hoover Dam.  Howard Hughes, the Rat Pack, and O.J. Simpson were just chips on the table that came later to perpetuate the growing legacy of Las Vegas.

I am frequently asked by friends and visiting business associates, what else is there to do in Las Vegas besides get drunk, gamble and lose all their money?  Heading out to the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail or aka “the tunnels” is always at the top of my list of recommendations. Why? Because the pathway itself is not accessible by cars (that is a good thing), the numerous photo opportunities easily make a portfolio of lifetime memories, and it is FREE.  My only concern, and frequent one, is that people are not prepared for a hike that can be 2-8 miles depending on their turnaround point.

lake mead overlook
There are so many opportunities to take great photos that will last a lifetime.

I see young parents with their kids at 2pm in their strollers and it is actually 110+ degrees.  The infants faces are flush red.  This is not smart parenting.  From early May through October, be smart about your half-day trip!  Go very early in the morning (before 8am on the trail) and make sure you are back to your car by 10am.  Most people also forget that the hike is out and back; so if you walk 3 miles out, you must walk 3 miles back.  Be smart about your abilities, how much water you have and what type of clothes you are wearing.


To divert the Colorado River’s flow around the Hoover Dam construction site, four 56-foot-diameter tunnels were driven through the walls of Black Canyon, two on the Nevada side and two on the Arizona side. Their combined length was nearly 16,000 feet (more than three miles).

By Los Angeles Times – unitproj.library.ucla.edu, Public Domain,

Tunneling began at the lower portals of the Nevada tunnels in May 1931. Shortly after, work began on two similar tunnels in the Arizona canyon wall. The work presented great difficulties. Initially, there were no roads into the canyon, so all the workers and equipment had to be brought in by boat. In time, roads were built into the canyon, and catwalks were strung across the river, so the workmen could ride to work in trucks. During the summer of 1931 the temperatures in the workings reached 140° F (60° C). When winter arrived, icy winds whipped through the canyon as temperatures dropped to freezing.

At one point in September 1932, work had to be abandoned and the site evacuated as flood waters swept through the canyon. In November 1932, the tunnels were complete, and a barrier across the inlets of the Arizona tunnels was breached with explosives. Earth and rock were dumped from a trestle bridge to block the river channel, forcing the entire flow of water into the tunnels.

For nearly two years, the Colorado River flowed unchecked through the diversion tunnels. In the fall of 1934, this all changed. Cofferdams were built at the entrances to tunnels 2 and 3, those closest to the river. Concrete plugs 405 feet thick were dovetailed into the tunnels, closing the bores forever.As winter low water approached, another cofferdam closed off tunnel 1. When this tunnel was plugged, 4 six-foot diameter holes were left in the plug, each fitted with a gate valve.

On February 1, 1935, a steel gate weighing more than 1000 tons was lowered over the entrance to tunnel 4. By opening the valves in plug 1, sufficient water to meet downstream needs was released while the waters of the Colorado River began to back up behind Hoover Dam to form Lake Mead. For the first time in history, the Colorado River was under man’s control.

Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

Hoover Dam, originally known as Boulder Dam from 1933 to 1947, when it was officially renamed Hoover Dam by a joint resolution of Congress, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was named after President Herbert Hoover.

Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc., which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

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Lake Mead Tunnels Loop Ride
Lake Mead Tunnels Loop Ride


RB Profile


I have been shooting for $$ since 2000 opening my shop with a Nikon D1.  I am primarily interested in shooting adventure lifestyle and travel with a host of my  day-to-day clients being within the industrial sector.

Many of my editorial stock photos have been published in all major news outlets, with my primary focus is distributing my images on a client-by-client basis to ensure their branding is unique and compelling.

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