Almost eighty years ago this year, President Herbert Hoover sat down in the Oval Office to sign and thus finalize a project that had been long in the works and the subject of many disagreements. The Colorado River Compact first appeared several years earlier but it wasn't until 1929 that there was enough agreement to make it official to build a major dam in the Nevada desert. Although initially called the Boulder Dam, a joint resolution of Congress changed it to Hoover Dam in 1947.

Almost eighty years ago this year, President Herbert Hoover sat down in the Oval Office to sign and thus finalize a project that had been long in the works and the subject of many disagreements. The Colorado River Compact first appeared several years earlier but it wasn't until 1929 that there was enough agreement to make it official to build a major dam in the Nevada desert. Although initially called the Boulder Dam, a joint resolution of Congress changed it to Hoover Dam in 1947.

About thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Hoover Dam although it wasn't planned. Instead, it just happened to be on the route.

That summer, I embarked on a major westward journey, driving from Neosho to California over several June days. Once I reached the Golden State, I enjoyed the Pacific Ocean, Hollywood, Disneyland and many of the delights found in Southern California. Along the way, I experienced a little of old Route 66 as well with an overnight stop in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, as veteran travelers know, isn't on the way to California without a detour. It isn't on either the northern or southern routes to California. It was on my way, however, because my mom rode shotgun for the first two days of the trip so she could visit her best friend who lives in Vegas.

So we left the interstate and wound toward Vegas over the road that happened to go near Hoover Dam.

In that part of Nevada, it's a barren landscape, brown and drab, with many rocks. I wasn't too impressed and neither was my vehicle, an old International Scout that decided to run a little hot. There weren't many spots to stop so when I realized we were drawing close to Hoover Dam, it seemed like a great place to let the truck cool down, add some water, and take a break.

Despite the hot walk down to the visitor center, I found myself awestruck to walk out to look at the view of the Colorado River below.

Before the dam was built, the Colorado flowed through Black Canyon in what had to have been an extremely remote spot on earth. It's not exactly a hot spot today, other than the dam.

A memorial on site dedicated to the 96 workers who lost their lives during the construction. The lines etched on the monument reads "They died to make the desert bloom" and has stuck in my memory since I first saw it. Some fell, some drowned, others suffered accidents or died in explosions.

Today, the 726 feet high dam not only provides electricity to millions of people, it also provides water to Las Vegas.

Since my visit, apparently tourists no longer are able to drive across the actual dam. A large parking garage on site - for a fee - takes care of some of the parking issues that I remember from the past.

One thing that amazed me on my visit was how many foreign tourists made the trek to see Hoover Dam. Their interest made me realize what an accomplishment it was when first constructed and how important a role it continues to play today.

When first built, the Hoover Dam was the largest in the world. It no longer can claim the title but it remains significant. It took years - from 1931-1936 to built it and President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated it on September 30, 1935.

It's located a long way off the proverbial beaten path but it's worth the trek to see Hoover Dam, ade possible by Presidential proclamation almost eighty years ago this week.

Lee Ann Murphy writes a column and is a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News.