Lake Havasu City Has a Great PR Department

Sometimes the experience doesn’t live up to the brochure.

We visited Lake Havasu City (LHC) yesterday. Home of the London Bridge, it’s also a lakefront paradise for water-starved boaters and beachcombers, a verdant oasis of culture and chlorophyll deep within the Mojave, America’s driest desert.

At least according to all the marketing promos and online reviews we read.

London Bridge Is Not Falling Down

More than fifty years ago, LHC town founder Robert McCulloch (of chainsaw and motorboat fortune), bought the actual London Bridge and moved it to the Arizona desert, where engineers rebuilt it stone by stone as part of McCulloch’s promotions for his new city.

Lake Havasu City’s London Bridge dressed for the upcoming holidays.

With an iconic tourist attraction and jobs from his three chainsaw factories, LHC blossomed into what it is today.

Which includes its own miniature London on the bridge’s mainland side, where enterprising merchants squat riverside hawking local-but-not-really London fare. It’s practically as if the proprietors have speech bubbles over their heads: “Fish an’ chips, guv’nah?” “Fancy a pint?” “Sumfin for da lay-dee?”

Made us think we were really in London.

If London were the size of a Sam’s Club parking lot, and built in 1965 from papier-mâché and surf movie leftovers. Like EPCOT Center meets a county fair midway, by way of Jimmy Buffet.

Which is all to say: kitsch for its own sake, and plenty of it, much to my amusement. And there would be more to come.

The Brochure Highlighted the “Island Trail”

We took our requisite photos and crossed London Bridge, reaching the island that stretches deep into Lake Havasu and its ballyhooed Island Trail.

And then we strolled this four-mile circuit of the promised island paradise, anxious to soak up the nautical vibe and envy those lucky enough to get their own piece of the American Dream, along the tropical shoreline of the “Powered Watercraft Capital of the World,” the home of the only beachfront resort in the American southwest desert.

We’ll let the pictures speak.

Lighthouses — Very Light Houses

Make no mistake – I loves me some kitsch. Advertise the world’s largest private insect collection, the Bigfoot museum, or a fire-breathing dragon in the middle of Illinois and I am there, with bells on. So I do appreciate that the locals have chosen their own special way of celebrating American history: with miniature replica lighthouses scattered all around the lake.

We’ve been to some of these lighthouses and the originals are fascinating, historical, storied. Grand in their way. Their fresnel lenses and weathered textures tell of a different and harsher time, of rough seas and dangerous shoals. But here in LHC, the replicas are … twee. See here, and note this sizing is not some trick of perspective, not a desert mirage, not a trompe l’oeil. See human for scale.

I am amused.

Haven Isn’t in Arizona

But amused is not enough to make a home out of, so we’ll be moving on.

The kitsch was a positive. And so was the discovery. After spending a few weeks in and near Arizona, with more to come, we’re now sure that we won’t be settling here for our long-term haven. We’ve discovered that it’s too dry, too hot, and too desolate for us. We had supposed that would be true, but living it ourselves has cemented the fact. And seeing so many rickety single-wides, sprawling RV resorts, flagged-up ATVs, and oversized pickups has made us view Arizona as Utah’s redneck cousin. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Most of my favorite relatives are redneck cousins.)

But that’s not where we want to spend the rest of our days. And narrowing down the choices where we’ll eventually settle is a positive thing.

Anyway. Props to LHC’s PR department for getting us there. But we’ve seen enough and won’t be stopping in again.

One comment

  1. Hope the road is still treating you well! Arizona may not be Haven, but it ain’t all Havasu City either. A few non Grand Canyon AZ suggestions for you to ponder as you attempt to avoid realizing it is winter.
    The area of Prescott (pronounce like biscuit), Jerome, Sedona. The vicinity of Sedona will be the warmest of these, but you could visit them all from a single campsite. Prescott was the original capital of AZ, and is a classic western town, surrounded by Ponderosa Pine forest with a great downtown square and good history. Jerome is an old copper mining town. Dramatically perched on a mountainside, it has a fair amount of Kitsch and a lot of funky. Sedona is sort of a New Age Moab, situated in red rock desert with lots of great hiking and scenery.
    In the far SE corner is Bisbee, another copper mining town. The word COLORFUL comes to mind, and yes I did mean to use all caps. If you go, be prepared to climb stairs – lots and lots of stairs. You can look it up…
    Tucson. Not exactly a secret location, but this is where what most Americans think of as desert, the Roadrunner cartoon kind of desert, is to be found. It is really quite beautiful, and there is plenty of hiking in the Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon and Madera Canyon areas. Tucson also has a fantastic system of bike paths, covering the entire area of the city.

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