The lifeline of the Mohave Valley is the mighty Colorado River which forms the western boundary of the Mohave Valley, of Mohave County, and of Arizona. It wends its way through the Valley on its way to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico from its origins high in the Rocky Mountains. It provides Mohave County with about 1,000 miles of accessible freshwater shoreline. Water sports and fishing enthusiasts delight in the Colorado River as it flows through the Mohave Valley at a speed of about eight knots. The flow of the river is controlled by a series of dams, including the nearby Davis Dam, providing recreational and hydroelectric uses for man. Rainbow and cutthroat trout, catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and striped bass abound in the river. Boat launch areas are available as are boats, water skiing equipment and jet skis from concessionaires in the Mohave Valley.
Davis Dam, located in Pyramid Canyon at the north end of the Mohave Valley, was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation to control flash flooding in the area and to regulate the Colorado River for the annual delivery to Mexico of 1.5 million acre feet of water, as required by an international treaty. It was originally called Bullhead Dam because of a peculiar rock formation at the site (now submerged). The dam was renamed in 1941 for Arthur Powell Davis, the Director of Reclamation from 1914 to1923, and one of the group responsible for the beginning of the Colorado River development. Work on the $67 million earth-and rock-filled structure was begun in 1942, was interrupted by World War II, resumed in 1946, stored its first water in 1950 and was completed in 1953 (although the first generator went “on line” in 1951). The power plant at the dam generates 1 to 2 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric energy annually. The water backed up behind the 1,600-foot-long, 140-foot-high dam constitutes Lake Mohave, a popular boating and fishing area, with boat launching facilities at Katherine Landing. The power plant at Davis Dam is open to the public at no charge and features a self-guided tour with short recorded lectures, illustrated maps and close-up views of its major features.
Davis Camp, on the Colorado River just below Davis Dam, once housed the construction workers who built Davis Dam. Now operated by the Mohave County Parks Department, the Camp offers RV camping, a picnic area, showers, restrooms, a laundromat, telephones, fishing areas and boat launching facilities.
Lake Mohave, 67 miles downstream from Hoover Dam, was created when the Colorado River waters were backed up by the building of Davis Dam. While the lake is only four miles wide at its widest point, it contains an average of 1.8 million acre feet of beautiful blue water, covers 28,500 acres and has 550 miles of shoreline dotted with sheer cliffs, sandy beaches and secluded coves. The lake is located within the Lake Mead Recreation Area and offers ideal boating and fishing opportunities. Fishing boats, sailboats, ski boats, and house boats are available for rent at the Katherine Landing marina. One-day raft trips are offered through the slow-moving waters of Black Canyon from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. Largemouth bass, striped bass, rainbow and cutthroat trout, channel catfish, crappie and bluegill are found in the lake. For additional information check with the ranger station at Katherine Landing.
Katherine Beach is the older name for the Lake Mohave Resort two miles from Katherine Landing. It was named for the Katherine Mine which lies one wash further north over a ridge. Katherine Landing is a southern gateway to Lake Mohave. Available are boat launching and dock facilities, a boat storage yard, a boat repair shop, an RV park (without hookups), campgrounds, a store, a restaurant and lounge, a sandy beach with a barbecue and picnic area and motel accommodations. Concessionaires rent jet skis, houseboats, power boats and other recreational equipment. Several hiking trails have their point of origin at Katherine Landing. We suggest you visit or phone the Katherine Landing Ranger Station (520-754-3272) to obtain information, maps, and friendly advice that will help make your visit to the area safe and enjoyable.
John S. Baggs of Kingman, AZ, discovered gold in 1900 at a place he called Katherine Mine, after his sister. Located outside Katherine Landing, between Lake Mohave and Kingman, the mine was very active. As a result, a community developed nearby. At one time the mine and mill could produce and process 300 tons of ore, every 24 hours. Before being shut down in 1942, the mine had produced gold valued at anywhere from $1.2 to $40 million (the dollar amount depends on your source of information). All that remains now are slabs of concrete, pillars and abandoned mine shafts. Access is by hiking only.
In February of 1859, Col. Hoffman, United State Army, and his command established Fort Mojave on the Colorado River, close to Beale Crossing. When he departed, Col. Hoffman left Maj. Lewis A. Armstead in command. (Maj. Armstead later became a general in the Confederate Army and was killed at Gettysburg during the Civil War.)
With the commissioning of Fort Mojave, the relationship with Native Americans soon improved. The Fort was abandoned on May 28, 1861, but was reopened again on May 19, 1863, with the outbreak of the Civil War. (About this time, Mojave City was erected near the Fort and was occupied until 1941.) The Fort continued in operation until 1890 at which time it was converted into an Indian school. The school was closed in 1934. The buildings were demolished in 1942 when the materials were used to provide housing for the construction workers building Davis Dam.
If you choose to fly into the Mohave Valley, you will arrive in Bullhead City at the Laughlin/Bullhead City International Airport, Arizona’s third largest regional airport. From here you may rent a car or take advantage of the free on-call passenger service provided to the many hotels in the area. Bullhead City got its start with the construction of Davis Dam and its name from Bulls Head Rock, an old landmark that pinpointed a safe crossing of the Colorado River. The rock is now covered by the waters of Lake Mohave behind Davis Dam. Bullhead City was incorporated in 1984 and covers an area of about 43 square miles.
Colorado River Museum
The museum, operated by the Colorado River Historical Society, features artifacts pertaining to the early history of the area. In addition to Native American artifacts and a replica of Fort Mojave, the museum features a steamboat display and mining exhibits. The museum, located at the south end of Davis Camp, just north of the Laughlin Bridge, is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed July and August. Call 520/754-3399 for information.
Located across the Colorado River from Bullhead City, Arizona, Laughlin, Nevada offers 24-hour excitement with its 11 spectacular casinos and hotels (providing 11,000 rooms), and all the neon lights and hoopla that goes with them. There are dozens of restaurants catering to every possible appetite and pocketbook, live “big name” shows, and every kind of gambling that Nevada law allows.
Lying like a black barrier along the easternmost edge of the Mohave Valley is the range of mountains known by various names, the most accepted of which is the Black Mountains, or the Blacks. The name Ute Mountains was once applied to the entire length of this range but has fallen into disuse. The area, dotted with dormant as well as operating mines, is a rockhound’s paradise.
This turn-of-the-century “ghost town,” and site of many old western movies, is situated in the Black Mountains on the original US Route 66. During an easy 20-minute drive from Mohave Valley, the elevation will increase by approximately 2,000 feet on a paved road. Oatman was originally called Vivian because of its close proximity to the Vivian Mine, located about 1/4-mile below the present town. The mine was discovered around 1902 by Ben Taddock. In its heyday, the area’s mines produced about $36 million in gold. The town once had a population of 10,000-12,000 and even had its own stock exchange.
Wild burros now roam the streets freely, begging food from the tourists. “Gun fights” are staged twice daily by the Ghostriders who occasionally also “rob” tourist buses as they come through town. The passenger’s “donations” ultimately end up with the Shriner’s hospitals and Children’s Burn Center (to which the gunfighters have donated over $18,000 during their existence). Food and refreshments are available amid the many unique gift shops.
The tall, whitish rhyolite spire to the southeast of town is called Elephant’s Tooth. Some visitors find it interesting to learn that it was in Oatman that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon after being married in Kingman.
The town hosts several unusual events each year: the annual bed races in January, and the egg fry where the first pair of contestants to fry an egg on the sidewalk on July 4th is a winner. During Gold Camp Days, celebrated over Labor Day weekend, the International Burro Biscuit Tossing contest is held.
The Gold Road Mine Tour
Just 2-1/2 miles east of Oatman is the Gold Road Mine where tours are conducted all day long. When this mine was in full production in 1996-1998, it was running 500 tons of ore a day, producing 40,000 oz. of gold a year. The operation employed 135 miners at its peak. Closure came in late 1998, when the price of gold fell below $300/oz. Production could begin again when the price rises enough to make it profitable to start mining again. The mine is known to contain enough ore to run for at least three years and additional prospecting indicates there may be enough to extend that period to 10 years.
The mine is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and tours start every 30 minutes. Cost $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12.
This huge dome-shaped cone of rhyolite is visible to the east of Mohave Valley, at the foot of the Black Mountains near Oatman. Its name, given by Army Lt. Joseph Ives in 1857, is derived from the fact that the 35th parallel of latitude passes through its center.
Christmas Tree Pass
Christmas Tree Pass lies in the Newberry Mountains to the northwest, just across the Colorado River in Nevada. The Pass gets its name from the pinion and juniper trees that have been decorated with cans, bulbs, stringers, etc., by individuals throughout the years. Christmas Tree Pass, the home of Grapevine Canyon (see below) runs under the shadow of Spirit Mountain, named for its religious significance to local Indian tribes. The Pass connects NV Highway 163 and U.S. Highway 95 over a dirt road. To get there, drive about 6-1/2 miles up Highway 163 toward Las Vegas. At the sign indicating Christmas Tree Pass, turn right onto a dirt road. It is 17 miles of challenging but passable road until you intersect Highway 95, 17 miles south of Searchlight, Nevada.
Grapevine Canyon (Native American Petroglyphs)
The entrance to Grapevine Canyon is about 1-1/2 milesalong the Christmas Tree Pass road. This is a challenging 1-1/2 miles, but if you drive slowly you can make it in the family sedan with no problems. Turn left at a sign indicating Grapevine Canyon. The road terminates in about a quarter mile at a parking area. The entrance to Grapevine Canyon is reached by following the easy trail (about 1/4-mile) on the shoulder at the left side of the wash. You can’t miss it. Petroglyphs (ancient Native American rock carvings; the derivation of the word is from “petro,” meaning rock, and “glyph,” meaning picture) that are hundreds of years old cover the sheer rock walls at the mouth of the canyon. Water flows year ‘round and the wild grape vines, from which the canyon derives its name, are prolific. Beyond the petroglyphs there are trails winding into the canyon; most require some strenuous rock climbing. Check with the ranger station at Katherine Landing for a schedule of guided tours to the canyon. We suggest you take ample water if you are contemplating a hike in the area.
Spirit Mountain, a landmark to the northwest, stands 5,600 feet above the desert floor and is visible for miles around. It is reached through Christmas Tree Pass. In the winter months it occasionally is capped with the white of a desert snowfall. The local Mojave Indians revere this peak as the birthplace of their gods.
Historic Route 66
Originating in either Topock or Ash Fork, AZ (depending on which way you are traveling), this road is lined with retail shops and tourist attractions. It passes through Oatman, Kingman, the Hualapai Indian Reservation, Peach Springs, the Grand Canyon Caverns and Seligman.