"This morning I came, I saw, and I was conquered, as everyone would be who sees for the first time this great feat of mankind.... Ten years ago the place where we gathered was an unpeopled, forbidding desert. In the bottom of the gloomy canyon whose precipitous walls rose to height of more than a thousand feet, flowed a turbulent, dangerous river.... The site of Boulder City was a cactus-covered waste. And the transformation wrought here in these years is a twentieth century marvel.” (President Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 30, 1935)
During the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, thousands of workers began work on the Hoover Dam, built in the Black Canyon, which had been cut by the powerful Colorado River. The Colorado River was responsible for the Grand Canyon, and by the 20th century, the idea of damming the river and creating an artificial lake was being explored for all of its potential, including hydroelectric power and irrigation. By the time the project was proposed in the 1920s, the contractors vowing to build it were facing the challenge of building the largest dam the world had ever known. As if that wasn’t enough, the landscape was completely unforgiving, as described by the famous explorer John Wesley Powell generations earlier: “The landscape everywhere, away from the river, is of rock - cliffs of rock, tables of rock, plateaus of rock, terraces of rock, crags of rock - ten thousand strangely carved forms...cathedral shaped buttes, towering hundreds or thousands of feet, cliffs that cannot be scaled, and canyon walls that shrink the river into insignificance, with vast hollow domes and tall pinnacles and shafts set on the verge overhead; and all highly colored.”
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