Lake Havasu City, AZ....
Apr 19, 2009
|Today we started our day by checking out the 45-mile long Lake Havasu, nestled along the foot of California's Chemehuevi Mountains near Interstate 40. Our first stop was at the state park to check out the campground and day use area. The daily rate is $15 for RV's. There are no hookups available (although we did see potable water spigots) but the sites are long and level. If it wasn't so hot we would probably camp here for a few more days, but air conditioning is a must at 95 degrees for me! The day use area has plenty of good parking and there were lots of watercraft enjoying the beautiful water today. There were a few folks around picnicking but most of the activity was in the water. Looks like a great winter destination come late January, early February.
Next we checked out Lake Havasu City, established after Parker Dam was constructed and the lake formed. Founded by Robert P. McCulloch, it has been said McCulloch first spied the eventual site of what would become Lake Havasu City, when he flew over the area in search of a location to test the outboard boat motors he manufactured. Had he flown over that site less than thirty years prior, there would have been no Lake Havasu to host the McCulloch test center. The miracle was that he was able to build a city in that same piece of desert, especially considering there was no major highway winding its way through the would-be city, connecting it to the rest of the country, and providing a stopover for weary travelers.
Larry and I attended a business meeting here in the late 80's and we were amazed at the growth in the area. Most of the shopping and restaurants at that time were all small, family owned type businesses. Not the case now! There are many of the 'chain restaurants' here, as well as a mall and a Super Wal-Mart. We had an early dinner at a wonderful Mexican restaurant (of course!) located just a block from 'the bridge'.
Of course, the focal point here now is that world-famous London Bridge, which crosses over to a small island in the Colorado River.
The towering walls and archways of the London Bridge have now stood in the waters of the Colorado River for more than 25 years. Many visitors are surprised when they learn this is the original London Bridge and not a gimmick. The Bridge serves as the backdrop to an English Village that grew up around it. However, the original "English Village", a quaint English-style open air mall with hedge maze and historical museum, has deteriorated since we last saw it. They are working on a plan to revitalize it, hope they follow through with it. It really is a large part of the charm as you meander along the walking path.
Did you know that for more than 140 years, London Bridge served as a crossing over the River Thames in London, England? It survived both world wars and a terrorist attack in 1884. So why did London want to remove such a significant landmark? And how did the London Bridge end up in Lake Havasu City, Arizona?
The London Bridge had survived many historic events, but not nature's forces. The Bridge began to sink into the River Thames, so it was decided that a new bridge would need to be built to accommodate the estimated 10,000 vehicles and 100,000 pedestrians that used it on a daily basis. But rather than razing the bridge, it was decided to put the historical landmark on the auction block in 1968. Enter Robert McCulloch. When casting his bid for the London Bridge, McCulloch doubled the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was 1.2 million dollars, bringing the price to $2,400,000. He then added on $60,000, a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be raised in Arizona. His sentimental gesture earned him the winning bid, and in 1968 he was the new owner of the London Bridge.
It took three years to complete the project. The structure was dismantled brick by brick, with each section marked and numbered, in much the same way it was originally built. The granite pieces were stacked at the Surrey Commercial Docks, and then were shipped through the Panama Canal, to Long Beach California. From Long Beach the granite blocks were trucked inland 300 miles.
At first, many of the early Lake Havasu residents did not take seriously the story of McCulloch buying the London Bridge, believing it to be some outrageous rumor. But then the story was confirmed, and they watched in amazement as the historical pieces of granite piled up at a nearby Havasu worksite.
There was a great deal of interest in the transformation of the peninsula into 'the island', with a mile-long bridge channel dredged, giving purpose to the transplanted landmark. Also included with the bridge purchase, were the unique lampposts, molded from French cannons captured during the 1815 battle of Waterloo. I love them! The London Bridge was officially opened on October 10, 1971, with a gala celebration complete with spectacular fireworks, a parade, entertainment, dramatic release of hundreds of balloons and white doves, colorful hot air balloon landings, and celebrities, such as Bonanza great Lorne Greene.
As a footnote, Robert McCulloch’s diverse interests continued into the last years of his life. In 1971, the same year the London Bridge officially opened, he built his first aircraft in Lake Havasu City. It was the J-2 Gyroplane, a hybrid combination of helicopter and airplane, and was tested by NASA pilot James Patton, in the summer of 1973. His dream was to offer “an airplane in every garage”, promoting a seemingly simple aircraft that was easy to fly and could take off from a driveway. Although he manufactured about 200 of the aircraft, the market never materialized.
Although his vision for an airplane in every garage never became a reality, the same can’t be said for his remarkable dream for a city in the Arizona desert, a far more dramatic and seemingly unattainable goal. Today Lake Havasu City is a vibrant, prosperous community and we enjoyed our day here very much!
We are heading out in the morning. Not sure how far we'll get as we make our way toward Yuma. We may spend a couple of days in the Parker area. We'll let you know...