Bullhead City, AZ

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.

NV 163 near Laughlin, NV

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.

Mirage RV Park

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.

South side of the earth filled dam looking west at Nevada

North side of the spillway looking at Lake Mohave

Looking south over the earthen dam, with the generators and spillway on the left

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.

Christmas Tree Pass Road

Two miles up the road we turned left and entered the parking area for the trail leading up into Grapevine Canyon.

Grapevine Canyon Trailhead

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.

Heading to the 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.

Small pools of water in the rocks

The canyon takes its name from the large areas of wild grapevines growing throughout the area.

Rocky go-around past one of the grapevine groves

Highly technical hiking move to avoid some Cat’s Claw branches

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.

Dry waterfall

Going back through the slot

At times the trail lead through some thick vegetation.  Can you spot the nimble hiker in the photo below?

Another view of the petroglyphs as we exited the canyon

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.

Sharp peaks overlooking Oatman

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.

The main drag

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.

The Gable-Lombard honeymoon suite

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.

Whaaaat ? ? ? ?

We left Oatman and continued east to enjoy the views as we drove up through the Black Mountains.

The winding Oatman Road east of town

Looking west from Sitgreaves Pass you can see Arizona, Nevada, and California

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 . . .

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39 Responses to Bullhead City, AZ

  1. Laurel says:

    Those burros are so cute! I’ve always wanted a burro. 🙂 I would have loved seeing those towns along Route 66 before they all dried up on the vine. But I’m glad to know that tourism is supporting all of the remaining 130 residents of Oatman. The petroglyphs and slot canyon on your hike are beautiful!

    • Susan Bank says:

      Burros are very sweet looking but the noise they make is positively deafening! Our neighbor two farms down had 3 and I could always tell when she was in the barn because of the ridiculous noise the little guys would produce while demanding dinner!

    • placestheygo says:

      The burros were definitely the attraction in Oatman for us. As Sue said they are loud. One of them got to braying for some reason and boy he had a set of lungs. I forgot to get a photo of the sticker some had on their forehead. It said, “STOP don’t feed me.” It was many the very young.

  2. The trail was a great find and quite a hike, lots of petroglyps and some scrambling. The burros are too cute!

  3. Debbie L says:

    Your photos are always great! What camera do you use? Or maybe it’s just the fabulous scenery! Great commentary with them!

  4. Jim and Barb says:

    Looking at your pictures give me the itch to head south for some SW hiking! We have never been to Oatman but it seems like a place that we will have to stop at if for nothing else to say we were there.

    • placestheygo says:

      I always feel that same way when we are back east and friends are posting beautiful SW photos. It is probably time for you to head this way. It is getting much too cold in your area.

  5. Oatman is a cool little town, isn’t it. You guys find so many petroglyphs! and I loved the photo of the braying burro!

  6. We never made it to Oatman when we visited that area. I’m surprised at how many tourists were there on the day you went.

  7. Sherry says:

    What a great hike. Pam executed that technical move perfectly. Really love the picture of Pam going back through the slot. You two are the Petroglyph Pair. What great glyphs!! When we finally get to go west, I’ll be wanting a list of all the Petroglyph and pictograph sites you’ve found. Hope you are keeping one. Looks like a busy day in Oatman. Might be 130 tourists in town to double the population. Love the story of the hotel and that burros have free run of the town. We adopted 2 wild burros which had been rescued off of BLM land where their numbers were to be decreased by shooting. Interesting to hear they are now protected. Our burros, Fred and Ginger, were wonderful fun and such personalities. From experience, I’m wondering who has the clean up job for the town?

  8. Jeff Pierce says:

    The hike up Grapevine Canyon looks great, nice reward with the quantity and quality of the ‘glyphs, too bad there was no waterfall.

    • placestheygo says:

      I was disappointed that the falls area wasn’t even damp. I had read that there was water all year. I guess the little area John showed in the blog is considered water all year. It’s nice that the petroglyphs are only .2 of a mile up the trail so everyone can enjoy them.

  9. Tebra says:

    Wow! It looks like you were in our area and we missed you. We love all the hiking opportunities here! Planning on going to Christmas Tree Pass while we are here also. We visited Oatman 2 years ago when we were in Lake Havasu City for the winter. Loved feeding the donkeys.
    Two fellow York County Pennsylvanians

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    So fun to see you in our annual stomping grounds. And to see those amazing petroglyphs which we’ve not been to yet. Definitely will check those out in April! Minus the technical hiking 🙂 Great pics of Oatman. I haven’t been inside the hotel in years, love the “fancy” honeymoon suite!

  11. pmbweaver says:

    I love the header photo!
    The petroglyphs are awesome. Not sure if I have seen so many big petroglyphs.
    We would do the same thing just to avoid those very bad Cat’s Claw branches. What a great trail.
    We enjoyed our time in Oatman. The burros are a hoot but I wouldn’t want them on my property daily.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! This is the largest concentration of petroglyphs we have ever seen crowed onto each boulder. The burros were so much fun, but like you, I don’t want them as my near neighbors.

  12. Glad you made it to Grapevine Canyon, it’s quite the bounty of petroglyphs!

    What a crack up that the burros are fixtures in Oatman! When we were at Buckskin Mountain a few days ago we discovered the burros were on the CA side of the river but not the AZ side!

  13. Gay says:

    Love the hike with the petroglyphs and slots…

  14. David Moreno says:

    Cool pics but you are not supposed to touch the glyphs that is a bad omen and in native ways you can bring spirits back with you!.

  15. Jerry & Carlene Francis says:

    Looking on line for a hiking backpack, is like searching for a needle in a haystack. As hiking aficionados, what do you recommend? Thanks

    • placestheygo says:

      What we use for our hiking backpacks we actually found in the biking section at REI. All the hiking packs were way too big. Ours have the storage we want but they aren’t huge. They are Camelbak 3L packs. They have two zipper areas and an large open area in the middle. They make a men’s and women’s version. We can carry two jackets without a problem and everything else we need. Here is the newer version that we have from the REI site: https://www.rei.com/product/108335/camelbak-sequoia-22-hydration-pack-womens-3-liters Keep in mind the actual pack is much flatter. This is a stuffed pack in the photo. Hope this helps!

  16. geogypsy2u says:

    Nice little trail. The burros are cool to see in Oatman.

  17. LuAnn says:

    Arches and petroglyphs seem to be your specialty. 🙂 We haven’t been to Oatman in years. Nice to see the burros are still thriving.

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