Carl Hayden Visitor Center Sits Like A Captain’s Bridge Atop The Colossal Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam

Carl Hayden Visitor Center

Atop Glen Canyon Dam 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Author: Bala From Seattle

The Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam is located on the west end of the dam, approximately 110 feet above its crest.

This beautiful, modernistic building whose circular, glass-enclosed east end juts out over the dam, provides a sweeping panoramic view of the dam and Lake Powell behind it.

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<b>Carl Hayden Visitor Center<br>Construction March 1966<br>Photo: USBR</b>
<b>Carl Hayden Visitor Center<br>Photo: USBR</b>
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Photos: Bureau of Reclamation

Completed in 1963, the Visitor Center was built to acquaint and inform the many visitors who flocked to Lake Powell.

It now accomodates over a million visitors a year who come here from all over the world.

And, in this day and age of high energy costs and government waste, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center is actually a great example of energy efficiency as a result of retrofits made in 1994 and 1995.

When visiting Lake Powell, this should be at the top of your list of things to do. If you are limited on time, at least take the self-guided tour.

There are wonderful exhibits, photographs, dioramas and a beautiful relief map of the dam, Lake Powell and the surrounding area.

As you view these photographs and exhibits, it is like a taking a time capsule back to the past.

You are witness to the building of an engineering marvel, from the initial blast on October 15, 1956 to the last bucket of cement poured in 1963. You are there and you have a seat by the window.

Guided Tours

Glen Canyon Natural History Association, a non-profit educational organization, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, provides guided tours through Glen Canyon Dam on a year-round basis.

Tours are approximately 45 minutes long. Each tour is limited to 20 persons (including infants and children.) Tour reservations are on a first come, first served basis; reservations may be made up to 24 hours in advance and must be reserved and paid for in person at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center.

If you have the time, and I strongly urge you to make the time, take the guided tour. You will be glad you did. The guides are friendly, very knowledgeable and welcome your questions.

The 45-60 minute tour first takes you down an elevator 110 feet to the crest of the dam where you can look over the edge and see the Colorado River more than 500 feet below. 

Glen Canyon Dam

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Author: Agunther

Then, on to a second elevator which, in a little over a minute, will take you down another 528 feet.

After a short walk, you will be able to look over the edge and see below you an unusual sight: 86,000 square feet of grass that lies between the dam and the power plant.

The grass provides a cooling effect, much the same as an evaporative cooler, which aids in reducing temperatures inside the powerhouse.

Glen Canyon Dam

Photo: Lyntha Scott Eiler
National Archives and Records Admistration


Photo: Bureau of Reclamation

And, for the piece de resistance, you will have a spectacular close up of the eight hydroelectric generators which generate an average of 451 megawatts of electricity and have a maximum capacity of 1320 megawatts.

If you think you are going to take the tour, I would suggest making a reservation as soon as you get to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center.

The tours are limited to 20 people and during the peak seasons can fill up quickly.

By registering when you first get there, you then have time to look around, visit the Gift Shop/Book Store, visit the restroom or return to your car if you need to.

As you would expect In these days of post 9/11, , the dam is a tightly secured area and you are not allowed to bring in purses, bags, knives, fingernail clippers, food nor weapons of any kind. You will have to pass through a metal detector, so be forewarned. There are no exceptions.

Tour Fees:

• Adults - $5.00
• Children (6 and under) - Free
• Children (7-17) - $2.50
• Seniors (62+) - $4.00

Carl Hayden Visitor Center

Hours of Operation:

• Summer hours (call for days) 8 am – 6 pm MST;
• Winter Hours (November through February)
Daily, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm MST;
• Rest of year open daily 8 am – 5 pm MST
• Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Phone: 928-608-6404. Tours of the Dam: 928-608-6072

Location: Highway 89 on west side of Glen Canyon Dam

Carl Hayden Visitor

Center Attractions:

• Tours of the dam
• Exhibits
• Video shows
• A relief map of the entire Glen Canyon area
• Restrooms and a bookstore

Don’t neglect the outside of the building as there are a couple of memorials of interest:

• A Fountain Memorial dedicated to the 8 Bureau of Reclamation employees who died October 8, 1997 in a plane crash near Montrose, Colorado.

• A Bronze Plaque dedicated to the 18 men who were killed working on the Glen Canyon Dam. 

Carl-Hayden-Visitor-Center-Lake-Powell-Country  Carl-Hayden-Visitor-Center -Lake-Powell-Country  Carl-Hayden-Visitor-Center -Lake-Powell-Country
Memorial Plaque To
Workers Who Died
Building Glen Canyon Dam
Memorial Plaque To
Co-Workers Killed
In Airplane Accident
Memorial Fountain To
Co-Workers Killed
In Airplane Accident

Photo on Left: Wikimedia Commons, Author: Wmpearl
Middle and Right Photo: Bureau of Reclamation, William Fischer, Jr

The Man Behind The Name:

The visitor’s center was named after Carl Trumbull Hayden (October 2, 1877 – January 25, 1972), an American politician from Arizona.

Carl Hayden

 Hayden was first elected to the United States House of Representatives (D) in 1911, where he served for eight terms. In 1926 he won election to the United States Senate (D) where he served until 1968. Altogether, he served 56 years in congress.

He was a staunch advocate of water rights for Arizona. In fact, his record of defending Arizona's interests in the water rights dispute with California, probably more than anything else, helped him in his bid for election to the United States Senate in 1926.

In addition to the having the Visitor’s Center at Glen Canyon Dam named after him in 1969, his name has been given to:

• Carl Hayden High School (Phoenix, AZ) - dedicated in 1957.
• US Department of Agriculture's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center (Tucson, AZ) – dedicated in 1978.
• U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center (Phoenix, AZ)- dedicated in 1987.

A bust of Carl Hayden was added to the Senate sculpture collection and placed in the Russell Senate Office Building in 1986.

Carl Hayden

Glen Canyon Dam Controversy

Before there was a Carl Hayden Visitor Center, there was the Glen Canyon Dam, and before there was a dam, there was a controversy that almost stopped its construction.

However, the dam was built and the Visitor Center was built, but yet, over 50 years later, the controversy still runs rampant.   

To learn more about this controversy,  please Click Here.

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References and Resources

For the Carl Hayden Visitor Center:

Desert USA

Federal Energy Management Program

National Park Service
Highway 89 Glen Canyon Dam

Plane Crash Map

The Glen Canyon Natural History Association

The Historical Marker Database

The History of Large Federal Dams:
Planning, Design and Construction
National Park Service

United States Bureau of Reclamation

Wikimedia Commons

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