Saturday, April 16, 2011

Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant

In grad school for Hydrology from University of Arizona I once took a 1 credit field trip down the Colorado River. We started at Hoover Dam and drove down to Mexico, talking with water managers and users all down the way. We took water quality samples (by the time we reached Mexico the water being pumped stank of rotten eggs). We asked everyone "who runs the Colorado?" and everyone had a different answer (usually "I do").

One place I remember was a Californian pumping station pictured above (not my photos, look here).

The water comes out of the river and up the pumps through the mountain up to lakes and more pump stations for about 250 miles (400 km).

This place, built in the 1930s has art deco touches. They keep it clean as a cathedral. I went to many churches when growing up so the feeling of being there was familiar.

The quality of construction is beyond anything you would see today, almost like science fiction, but in reverse. The future already happened during the Grand Times of the 1930s and is gone now except for some of the buildings.

In the basement is this turbine/pump. The inner silver metal piece is spinning at a blur. With the consent of our hosts, I reached over the railing and balanced a 5 cent piece on its side on the green metal near the base. This thing is perfectly balanced and has no vibration at all. I took a picture of the nickel while it was standing on its own but lost it when I had a hard-drive crash years ago.

This year I want to visit some amazing structures, behind the scenes. It is getting very difficult with increased security. I have never met anyone who has been inside Hoover Dam's control room, not even Bureau of Reclamation employees.

If you know a place I can go, please let me know! Tom


  1. Tom, Great showing for yourself. Do I know a place you can go? You bet! I know the river and have been to all the places you have mentioned. That includes Hoover's control room.

    Dude, you're bookmarked now.

  2. Dave,

    Neat! Do you have a favorite place on the river? I reckon there's probably some interesting ghost towns that have popped up too as the reservoir levels have dropped?


  3. Favorite place on river is Topock Gorge. No ghost towns visible yet on Lake Mead. If the lake drops more, I believe that the only town was Hardyville. Lucky for us, Lake Mead is rising due to good snowpack in Colorado last year.