Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City is about 20 miles east of Las Vegas, so this is a nice choice for a day trip destination, especially if touring Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is in the plans! A tour of these two neighboring destinations will provide insight into the origins of this historic town.

Boulder City started as a tent camp for Boulder Dam workers during the great depression.  Federal authorities saw many problems with the squalid living conditions, so they hired a well known city planner to design a town. Boulder City was planned as a town that would turn the desert green with water.  This town earned the nickname of “Nevada’s Garden City”  because extensive lush gardens and green grass parks were part of the original city plan.

Like many federal projects, the budget was cut short when building Boulder City, so the full community plan never took shape.  The old expression “living high on the hill” came to be a matter of fact in this Federal town.  The highest paid dam workers were housed at the top of the hill and the lowest paid laborers had to settle for living at the lowest elevation in portable housing units.  Parks and facilities that were planned for the labor crew neighborhoods were cut out of the budget, so the only community projects completed were at the top of the hill where the wealthy folks lived, which is a classic example of how the Federal Government really works.     

The Federal Government did not approve of the standard Nevada lifestyle of wild nightlife and gambling as a theme when planning Boulder City.  “Clean living” for dam workers was the only lifestyle that the Federal Government allowed.  Because no gambling, brothels or alcoholic beverages were allowed in this town, it actually helped the Las Vegas economy in a big way.  Many of the Boulder Dam workers went to Las Vegas to spend their money gambling and boozing it up on days off, so the Boulder Dam project turned out to be an economic shot in the arm for Las Vegas back in the early days.

After the dam project was completed, many of the old portable wooden houses were vacated.  Apparently the Federal Government realized that most of the laborers would move on to seek work elsewhere after the dam was finished, so the temporary housing got the task done.  As time went on, many of the old portable laborer houses were moved to other towns in the Desert Southwest region.  I worked at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California and some of the old original Boulder City portable houses were actually in service as guest cabins at that resort.

Boulder City and Boulder Dam both quickly became prime tourist destinations shortly after the monumental construction project was completed.  As Las Vegas progressed to become a top tourist destination, the economy of Boulder City also benefited from people touring the dam from Las Vegas. The Boulder Dam tourists spent money in Boulder City, so one might say that the economic boost from dam workers spending money in Las Vegas years before finally went full circle.

In modern times Boulder City is now a popular tourist destination that offers a time capsule glimpse into the historic past.  The Main Street area that runs through this town has turned into a mecca of antique shops, souvenir shops and restaurants, while the old original building designs were retained.

The old historic Boulder Dam Hotel that was built in the 1930s is still open for business.  There are many historic markers located throughout Boulder City, so taking a casual stroll through this town is recommended.  Boulder City is a nice place to find relief from the “sensory overload syndrome” that is associated with the overwhelming bright lights and fast pace of Las Vegas. In this way, Boulder City is like a breath of fresh and the lush green gardens have a way of putting a smile on the face!  

Historic Boulder City is a pleasant little town with a pace of its own.  Boulder City is a must to experience, especially when touring what is now called Hoover Dam. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is next door, so there are endless things to do. For those who are just passing through on the way to destinations in Arizona, Boulder City is the last place to grab a good bite to eat for over 100 miles till arriving in Kingman. Stepping back in time to an age when monumental landmarks like the Hoover Dam were still being built is as easy as visiting historic Boulder City!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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