Thursday, July 8, 2010

Great Engineering Feats of the Desert

One of the things I love about America's deserts is man's ability to build engineering marvels in some of the most inhospitable land that allow for people to live in greater numbers than they otherwise could.  To the left is the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge near Page, Arizona.

This bridge made a trip across the gorge a quick jaunt where absent the bridge hundreds of miles would have to traveled to get from one side to another.

Glenn Canyon Dam itself is a marvel of American ingenuity also. The Dam impounds Lake Powell just inside Arizona and back up into Utah. The Dam provides for flood control and hydroelectric power on the Colorado River.

Route 66 the fabled transcontinental highway prior to the Interstate system is another great feat. This famous highway stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.  It made the road trip famous.  Here part of Route 66 is still in use today at Gallup, New Mexico.

To the right is the causeway across the Great Salt Lake connecting Antelope Island State Park with Syracuse, Utah. Seven miles of raised earth make this  access possible and makes a remote island in the middle of a dead sea accessible to the public. In the picture you are looking from Antelope Island east across the Great Salt Lake.

Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona state line was once the largest dam ever built. It still remains one of the largest in the world.  Built during the height of the Great Depression, the dam impounds Lake Mead, provides water for irrigation, generates power for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.

Lake Mead also provides a great recreation area in the middle of the otherwise hot and dusty Mojave. A new bridge at the top of Black Canyon will soon replace the highway that tops the Dam. Hoover Dam is a great working structure and a marvel of modern engineering.

Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona was one of the most expensive highway projects in U.S. history.  Blasted through the winding canyon and crossing the Virgin River several times it is a wonder that this stretch of highway was ever built. Before its completion to get to Las Vegas, Nevada from St. George, Utah required a trip directly west about 10 miles and then on a two lane highway over a mountain pass down to Littlefield, Arizona. The I-15 project took an hour off the drive to Las Vegas to Salt Lake each way.

One of my favorite bridges is the Freedom Bridge over Starvation Reservoir in Utah. This one mile stretch of US 40 is not the greatest engineering feats, but it is in a difficult area of the Colorado Plateau. Starvation Reservoir in the eastern part of Utah is a smaller reservoir created by the Strawberry River. The picture to the right is a winter shot of Freedom Bridge in the winter.  Duchesne is 10 miles to the east and Heber City is 40 miles northwest.

Modern engineering has made living in a desert, which I do possible in all aspects of life. Sometime appreciating a desert is being thankful for the man made things as well as the beauty of nature.

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