We had reservations for four nights in Las Vegas but our daughter said we should check out Lake Havasu City, Arizona. We’ve been to Las Vegas before. There really wasn’t anything in particular drawing us back and we were a little less than excited to go back during this time. Lake Havasu City seemed to be a better option. So we canceled our reservations in Las Vegas, said good-bye to the Grand Canyon and set out for Lake Havasu State Park.
Grammi and I stayed four nights at site 41 in the Lake Havasu State Park. Bordering the shoreline of Lake Havasu there are some preferred sites on the water with access to the beach. We felt fortunate to get one. Seeing the reflection off the water of the sun dropping behind the mountain peaks in California from our own campsite was a special treat. During the hot days it was just a short walk across the sand beach to cool off in the water. We would take our chairs and sun umbrella into the water where we would sit and watch all the boat activity while soaking our feet and legs in the cool water.
Lake Havasu was formed with the completion of the Parker Dam. It was built from 1934-1938 on the Colorado River to provide a water reservoir. Located in the empty desert with California on the west and Arizona on the east, it remained undeveloped until Robert McCulloch, known mostly for his chainsaws, was looking for a place to test his new outboard motors. McCulloch was a visionary and after flying over the area, saw it’s potential. In 1963 he purchased 26 square miles of land and teamed up with developer C.V. Wood, the master planner of Disneyland, to develop what is now the thriving community of Lake Havasu City.
Mr. McCulloch’s vision did not stop there however. In 1968 he purchased the famous London Bridge with a winning bid of $2,460,000. So began the painstaking task of dissembling the bridge piece by piece, shipping it through the Panama Canal to California, where it was trucked to the small town of Lake Havasu City and reassembled on a dry peninsula. A channel was then dredged under the bridge turning the peninsula into and island. On October 10, 1971 the London Bridge was rededicated in a grand ceremony attended by over 50,000 spectators and dignitaries from both London and the United States. The total cost for the bridge was $5.1 million dollars.
A favorite location of ours was the English Village located on the channel at the London Bridge. There’s a channel walk going under the bridge with shops, restaurants and lodging. There’s docks for boaters to tie off. One evening we sat under the lights of the London Bridge at a sidewalk table enjoying drinks and appetizers while people watching. It was reminiscent of the many sidewalk cafes we dined at in Europe.
Also located at the English Village is the Sunset Charter and Tour Company where one evening we boarded a boat for a sunset excursion aboard the Serenity Now. We cruised under the London Bridge and through the channel where a lot of what I like to call “go fast boats and party boats” where tied together along the shore line. A cacophony of music blared while bikini clad girls dance on the decks. We passed a tiki bar that was also cruising the channel.
Once we made it to open water, the captain picked up speed as we headed down river to the Copper Canyon. Once a mining area, the secluded canyon is now a popular spot for climbing cliffs and jumping into the water. A wild burro never so much glanced at us as we idled past, but a coyote walking the ridge line kept a watchful eye. The captains timely exit from the canyon turned our focus on an exquisite sunset perfectly aligned up river. It was a sight to see.
Our return trip took us around the island where the captain pointed out the many lighthouses starting to illuminated. As he explained, some years back in response to nighttime boating accidents the city came up with the idea of using lighthouses as navigational markers. The lighthouses are now just as much an attraction as London Bridge. Each of the more than twenty lighthouses are a 1/3 scale replica of a famous American lighthouse. They are not a true lighthouse but rather a navigational light.
As we came to the end of our ninety minute cruise and reentered the channel, we approached the London Bridge illuminated in the darkness by old lamp post that were made from melting down cannons captured from Napoleon’s army. The captain said that the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest antique ever sold. At forty-five dollars per person I think the cruise is a must do for anyone wanting to experience sightseeing on the water. But if you just want a quick ride over the river, I was told by another boat passenger that for just two dollars you can board a ferry that leaves every hour on the hour going to Havasu Landing Resort & Casino on the California side.
We took a road trip from Lake Havasu City on one of the days we were there. Heading north off of I-40 at exit 1 along Route 66 we zig-zagged through the Black Mountains toward the old gold mining town of Oatman. It was a fun town to visit as it maintains a wild west appearance with original board buildings and wooden sidewalks. Don’t be surprised if you see a cowboy or two walking through town. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their honeymoon here at the Oatman Hotel. Shops line the street as the town now attracts thousands of tourist every year. Donkeys descended from miners old beast of burdens walk the streets looking for handouts. They are said to now out number the residents. Many of the shops sell specially made biscuits to feed the animals.
After spending a couple hours exploring and rummaging through the shops and of course feeding the donkeys, we left Oatman and continued up Route 66 toward Kingman. Driving past abandoned mines and seeing old mine tailings seemingly suspended on the hillsides, we went over the Black Mountains at Sitgreaves Pass. We pulled off at one of the turn outs to take in the scenic view and to eat our packed lunch. A comfortable coolness at that elevation combined with the surrounding beauty made for a great lunch spot.
Continuing our trip we were amazed to find a old gas station from the 1920’s with relic gas pumps in pristine condition. During its heyday, Cool Springs had a diner with home cooked meals, offered overnight lodging, and provided fresh water and gasoline to weary travelers. Don’t think you can buy gas there today because you can’t as it now serves as a sort of Route 66 museum with a gift shop and a place to buy snacks and cold drinks.
When we came to the base of the mountain, the road straightened and we turned back toward I-40 and headed to camp. It was a worthy road trip where we learned some, saw some and experience a lot. We covered a part of historic Route 66 known as the sidewinder. We know now that the Black Mountains really are black, we saw many old dilapidated ruins along the road from a by-gone era, and we experience a piece of history. Not a bad day!
After a long day we were in no mood to cook dinner so we ordered fast-food vegan burgers and took them to a city park on the channel. There we sat on a park bench, ate our burgers and watched all the boat traffic go by. We then took a night time stroll across the London Bridge joining those from history, including royalty, who crossed before us. Live music from a tavern below filled the air. There are those that say the bridge is haunted but we saw no such evidence.
This city is a boaters paradise. It’s an attractive, thriving, growing community. I am sure there were many who scoffed at the late Mr. Robert McCulloch when he bought all those acres of desert land. I’m betting there were many more that laugh when he bought the London Bridge. But who’s laughing now?
If you like reading our blog please consider following and leave a comment below.
Until next time…happy days and safe travels.