Alright, maybe I had too much fun with the whole pun of the word “Dam” but containing my inner child can be at times, nearly impossible. Just the same as it was for the early settlers of Phoenix Arizona and the surrounding area, who relied on the Salt River for much of their irrigation needs, but much like the wild rivers of the West, it was often times either feast or famine and something needed to be done to control the flow of water into what would eventually become, a major metropolis.
Enter President Theodore Roosevelt, his influence in the early 1900s, along with the Reclamation Act of 1902, provided the federal funds to build the Dam and the lake that bears his name that sits just behind the Dam and by 1911, it was not only providing hydro electrical power, but once and for all controlled the flow of natural water into the Phoenix Valley.
In 1989, the Dam was resurfaced and expanded to the height of 357 feet. The realignment of Highway 188 over the new Theodore Roosevelt Bridge upstream of the dam also took place, building a beautiful single span structure that takes a giant leap over Roosevelt Lake and for many native Arizonans, serves as one of the only bridges they may ever cross in their lifetime since you could travel hundreds of miles before crossing a similar structure.
The bridge was painted blue to blend in with the surrounding area and also was build with an arch to it, so that drivers didn’t feel as if the bridge was sagging.
The area around the Dam is absolutely gorgeous and there are countless number of hiking trails, camping sites, boat launches and fishing holes…Arizona at its best.
The original Highway 188, traveled over the top of the Dam, kind of like Highway 93 does when crossing the Hoover Dam at the Arizona/Nevada border. The road can still be seen from a far, with some of the original light fixtures and it’s a beautiful sight, even from a distance.
Other sections of the lost parts of highway 188 can be found, mapping out the route that drivers would have to take before the 1980s when the Dam was given a facelift and a one way ticket into modernity.
Imagine the Model T or worse, a large Buick on this road…yikes!
Still, the Roosevelt Dam and bridge remains one of my favorite places in Arizona and should be a stop on your road trip through the state. Many men died in the building of what was a modern marvel at the time and their sacrifice insured the future of Phoenix and it’s suburbs.