Bullhead City, AZ
Last Monday we left Boulder City and headed south on US 95. After traveling about 60 miles through fairly flat desert we turned east on NV 163. The four lane highway winds its way through some beautiful hills for about 15 miles before dropping sharply down into the Colorado River valley.
We crossed the Colorado River at Laughlin, NV and immediately turned south on AZ 95 for a short drive into Bullhead City. There we had a reservation at Mirage RV Resort, one of the many RV parks in this area. Bullhead City takes its name from a large rock formation called Bull’s Head Rock, which is now covered by Lake Mohave.
Laughlin, NV and Bullhead City, AZ are located across from each other on the Colorado River just south of Davis Dam. Davis Dam, 70 miles south of Hoover Dam, opened in 1951. The water held behind the dam forms Lake Mohave.
For security reasons you can no longer drive over the dam, but it is open to bicycle and foot traffic. We parked in a lot that is part of the Heritage Greenway Park on the Nevada side of the river and walked up through an access point, giving us access to the top of the dam.
Davis Dam is what is called a zoned earth-fill dam, with a concrete spillway 1,600 ft. in length at the crest and 200 ft. high. The earth fill dam begins on the Nevada side on the west, but it does not extend to the Arizona side on the east. Instead, there is an inlet formed by earth and concrete, that includes the spillway. The hydroelectric power plant is beside the inlet.
We needed a little exercise during our stay here so one afternoon we drove back up NV 163 for seven miles. At that point we turned north on a maintained dirt road called Christmas Tree Pass Road. The road’s name apparently comes from a time when someone decorated some of the local bushes during the holidays.
Two miles up the road we turned left and entered the parking area for the trail leading up into Grapevine Canyon.
The trail begins by going up a wide dry wash to a narrow opening, which is the beginning of the canyon. The rocks around the narrowing contain a vast amount of rock artwork at what a called the Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs.
The area is covered with over 700 petroglyphs believed to have been created between 1100 and 1900.
We hiked about 1.5 miles further up the canyon looking for a spring-fed waterfall that we read has water in it most of the year. But the only water we found was in a couple of little pools sitting in the rocks.
The canyon takes its name from the large areas of wild grapevines growing throughout the area.
While most of the hike is in open wash, there is a short but interesting slot area to go through.
The hike ended when we came to a high rock wall, with the waterfall area just to its left. Unfortunately, there was not a drop of moisture to be found.
At times the trail lead through some thick vegetation. Can you spot the nimble hiker in the photo below?
One afternoon we took a drive to visit the nearby historical mining town of Oatman. To get there we drove south of Bullhead City for about 12 miles on AZ 95. We then turned east on Boundary Cone Road, which turns into the Oatman-Topack Highway. Oatman is a 14 mile drive from that turn.
Although the area had already been settled for a number of years, Oatman really began as a small mining camp soon after two prospectors found gold there in 1915. Once gold was discovered Oatman’s population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year. The district produced $40 million (about $2,600,000,000 at current value) in gold by 1941. That year the town’s gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the government as part of the country’s war effort, since metals other than gold were needed. The town continued to survive though, as it was located on busy Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. But the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between those two towns was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned. Today tourism supports the 130 remaining residents.
In 1921 a fire burned down many of Oatman’s smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, the hotel remains the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County.
The hotel is famous as the honeymoon stop of actors Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in nearby Kingman in 1939. Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners. The Gable-Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s major attractions.
Oatman’s most famous attraction is its wild burros, which freely roam the town streets. Though normally gentle, the burros are wild and signs posted throughout the town advise visitors to be careful around them. The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors and are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
We left Oatman and continued east to enjoy the views as we drove up through the Black Mountains.
On our last day in Bullhead City we set up our chairs by the Colorado River and relaxed a bit while enjoying a treat from one of those chain coffee shops headquartered in Seattle.
We will now continue our southern trek along the Colorado River with a short (60 mile) drive to Lake Havasu City. More on that later . . .