In the foothills east of Tucson lies Agua Caliente Park, with it’s large palm trees and year round ponds feed by spring water.
Originally there were two springs, a hot spring and a cold spring. Over the years attempts to improve the flow of water failed miserably resulting in a combination of the waters, and a lower overall volume of flow.
The native Hohokam had a village here for nearly 1000 years. In the mid 1800s the Army had taken over the area for an encampment following the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
In the late 1800s it was claimed by a settler who ranched the land. Later they advertised the ranch as a health spa. This pattern continued for 100 years, until the mid 1980s when the county took over the property to develop as a park.
The majestic palm trees were added in the late 1800s when it became a spa.
As most people know the western United States is in the midst of a long term drought, where water is precious. In previous posts I have shown Lake Powell, at historic low levels. The same is true of Lake Mead, sitting behind the Hoover Dam.
Yet here in the middle of the desert is Lake Havasu, made possible by Parker Dam. It is constantly at 97%+ full. Why – because 100 year old water rights says parts of California get the water first, and Havasu is that reservoir.
What to do with that water – create an island out of what was once a peninsula, and use the 200 year old London Bridge to cross the channel.
Havasu City was created by an eccentric millionaire back in the 1960s who bought thousands of acres of desert along the reservoir, only to find that nobody wanted to come.
The city of London needed to replace the bridge since it was sinking into the Thames River, so they held an auction where, as legend has it, had 1 bidder – Robert McCulloch.
Once purchased, he had it disassembled after carefully labeling each block, shipped by boat 1/2 way around the world through the Panama Canal to the Port of Long Beach, then across the couple of hundred miles of desert to Havasu.
They then set to it building a bridge in the middle of the desert (water to come later). This photo is off the internet.
Legend also says that McCulloch thought he was buying Tower Bridge, but this has been debunked. Eventually he had his bridge, and it was a success – thousands of tourists came, and now Lake Havasu City is home to over 50,000 people, with probably 3 times as many here for the 4th of July weekend.
While you are there you can enjoy the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of people on boats and jet skis that have been towed hundreds of miles to this remote location by their giant trucks and SUVs, to cruise around and complain about the cost of gas.
The Colorado River leading up to Havasu is similar.
Another of the attractions of Havasu is a collection of replica lighthouses. There are 28 of the houses scattered around, many of them on private property (behind gates), so the only way to see them is by boat. We chose to drive to those we could get to.
The sun set on the roar of engines and the London Bridge.
As we left Havasu early the next morning we passed the solitude of a nature preserve. Ahhhh.
The Salton Sea is a biological nightmare located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Created by mistake by people making an irrigation channel from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley, only to see if massively flooded in the early 1900s, creating this ‘sea’.
By the 1950s the lake should have dried up since it has no natural source of water, but the farmers continued to flood it with diverted water. At this point developers decided this was a perfect spot to create some resorts for the Angelenos to come hang out at.
With contaminated run off from all of the agricultural chemicals being used, and a stoppage of the water flow the lake began to shrink, and become hazardous, thus ending the vacation appeal.
As a result some of the resort towns that had developed eventually became mostly deserted. One of those is Bombay Beach.
Recently though some alternate artists have re-discovered Bombay Beach and moved in, creating a unique setting. Enjoy the views, but stay out of the water.
If Bombay Beach is not unique enough, head on further south another 20 miles until you reach Slab City.
This ‘town’ is completely off the grid, situated on an old WWII Marine Corps based. When the war was over they demolished the buildings, leaving the concrete slabs behind. For a while it was used as a bombing range, but when they stopped doing that drifters moved in.
Today those that reside here (Slabbies) like to think of themselves as the Last Free People of America. It is a funky mix of art, junk and RVs – which are often a combination of the first two things.
Salvation Mountain is one of the more famous sights in Slab City. Created over a 30 year period by Leonard Knight it was featured in a movie called Into the Wild.
The light beam is not a sign from above, it was created when we took the photo through the windshield of the car with this reflection. But hey – if you see something else, c’est la’vie.
The Glen Canyon Dam was completed along the Colorado River in 1966, creating Lake Powell. The lake can hold as much as 25 million acre feet of water, but is currently only at 27%. The photos of that shortage are dramatic.
At 710′ high, it is the 4th tallest dam in the United States.
A look down river at the canyon.
The rock formations around the canyon have some of the distinctive swirls.
Once you cross the bridge you get some dramatic views of the dam, bridge and lake. For those unfamiliar the ‘bathtub ring’ indicates the high water marks.
The Vermillion Cliffs are an eroded escarpment across far northern Arizona, rising as high as 3000′ above the nearby valley. It provides a very scenic drive from the Grand Canyon North Rim to Page, Arizona.
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is at an area where the cliffs meet the Colorado River in Marble Canyon.
In the 1800s this area was known as Lee’s Ferry, with some historic structures situated along the river.
Many rafting trips depart from here and head down river.
Back at Marble Canyon is the Navajo Bridge, the last crossing of the Colorado River downriver for almost 300 miles (until you reach the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas).
There is an impressive view of the canyon from the bridge.
A bit further up the road, just before reaching Page, is the famed Horseshoe Bend. While impressive, it is not in my opinion as impressive as Gooseneck State Park in Utah (visited earlier in this trip).