Over the past few years, my wife and I, accompanied by longtime friends Bill and Diane Elling from Estherville, have taken two weeks out of each late-January winter and headed for a warmer climate. No exotic or out of the country trip, simply a trip somewhere warm within the continental United States.
These trips have reinforced our thought that this country contains a truly beautiful and diverse landscape, so much so that each year we say to each other, "We could come back here again!"
This year our destination was to an area with an average daily temperature during our stay of 65-70 degrees, while the nighttime temperatures dropped to the upper 40s. Amazingly, the community we headquartered out of has only been in existence for 47 years! What a story it is.
The famed London Bridge, which was purchased and brought to the shores of Lake Havasu City by Robert McCulloch, It took three years to dismantle, move and reconstruct the bridge at its current site.
Photo by Steve Weisman
Much of the information in this article comes from local historians and the folks at the Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau. Lake Havasu City, Arizona is a planned community established by Robert McCulloch, the inventor and owner of McCulloch Chainsaw and Small Engines. In 1963, he purchased a total of 26 square miles of desert at a cost of $73.47 per acre.
Located in northwest Arizona on the shores of Lake Havasu, which was formed in 1938 when the Parker Dam was constructed on the Colorado River, Lake Havasu City is now a booming community of over 55,000 people with another 20,000+ "snow birds" arriving during the winter season. The word "havasu" comes from the Mohave Indians and means blue water, a fitting name for a body of water that offers a true blue color.
For McColloch, it was the water that drew him. He originally flew over the site looking for a location to test outboard motors that he manufactured. Certainly, there were skeptics. Why would anyone pay $73.47 per acre for some desert land with nothing around it? Now 47 years later, the decision has proven incredibly successful.
Although the planned community thing is interesting, it is what McCulloch brought to the shores of Lake Havasu that links the history of England with that of Lake Havasu City. You see, in 1968, McCulloch purchased the London Bridge, which had been erected in 1831 to allow passage over the River Thames in London, England. Cost of the purchase was $2,460,000, but that was only the beginning.
Next came the dismantling, the numbering of each block of granite, followed by the 7,000 mile journey through the Panama Canal to the coast of California and across the desert to the shores of Lake Havasu City. It took three years to complete the move and the reconstruction of the 10,276 pieces of granite. According to local historians, the London Bridge with its five arches is 930 feet long, 49 feet wide and is made up of 22 million pounds of stone. It is actually 75 feet shorter than the original structure in London, so the unused portion has been sold off to a variety of buyers.
With the bridge comes its history, including the cast iron bridge lampposts molded from Napoleon's cannons captured during the Battle of Waterloo and the marks from the exploding German shells fired at it during the Battle of Britain during World War II.
The bridge itself was built on dry ground, which made reconstruction much easier. Upon completion, McCulloch had a one mile channel dredged out to connect to Lake Havasu.
Part of what McCulloch envisioned with his dream was a place that would embrace an enviable lifestyle that would attract both visitors and those looking to be part of this type of community. To add to the desert beauty, McCulloch purchased palm trees and introduced them to the area. Today, palm trees appear throughout the area.
As we explored the Lake Havasu City area, we found much of the local economy to be driven by tourism, very similar to the economy of our own Iowa Great Lakes. The contrast of the Arizona desert combined with the Colorado River and Lake Havasu is certainly a huge drawing card. Add to it the mild, arid weather, and it becomes a winning combination.
To meet this demand, Lake Havasu City now includes a full range of hotel, resort and condo accommodations, along with a number of seasonal house rental opportunities. At the same time, activities abound: lake and desert tours, golfing, tennis, water sports including fishing, camping, biking, desert ridingand, of course, shopping and dining.
Lake Havasu hosts a great variety of accommodations. However, since this was our first trip, we decided we wanted to stay right where the action was. That, we found was the London Bridge Resort (www.LondonBridgeResort.com), which originally opened in 1984 as a hotel, and now includes grounds that house its own Bridgewater Links Golf Course and is surrounded by a quaint English Village. With 122 deluxe suites ranging from studios to two bedroom suites, we found the accommodations to be excellent. Additional amenities include a business center, spa, three pools, a fitness center, lounge and an upscale restaurant and lounge. In addition it offers space for meetings, a wedding pavilion, meeting, banquet and catering services, floral design and services, music entertainment services and photography services.
Keeping with the English theme, the entrance to the resort contains the world's only replica of England's Gold State Coach. The original coach was built in 1762. The replica is built to scale: 24 feet long, 8 feet 3 inches wide and 12 feet high with a total weight of 4 tons.
Over the next couple of articles, I will share some of the activities we enjoyed and, of course, a fishing excursion on Lake Havasu.