Bullhead City: The Best of the Colorado River

By: Arizona Office of Tourism

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July 4, 2011

Located on the Colorado River, near the spot where Arizona, Nevada and California meet, Bullhead City is a thriving community where striking scenic beauty provides the backdrop for a host of attractions and outdoor recreational activities.

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Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, as well as local tourism organizations around the state.

Gold miners first began settling this area in the mid-1800s. The community now known as Bullhead City started out as Hardyville, when William Harrison Hardy opened a ferry service, trading post and inn on the Colorado River in 1864.

The modern beginnings of the city are tied to the construction of Davis Dam, which broke ground in 1942, but had to be halted because World War II consumed necessary construction materials. Construction resumed in 1946, a year after the war ended, and the dam was completed in 1950. The dam is named after the late Arthur Powell Davis, director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1914 until 1923.

Construction workers on the project lived with their families at the foot of the dam in a community called Davis Camp. Nearby, a town sprang up from the remains of Hardyville to support the growing population. The town was named Bullhead City after a rock island in the Colorado River that resembled the head and shoulders of a bull with large, curved horns. The Bullhead City post office was established in 1946, and the rock was submerged under the rising water of Lake Mohave as it backed up behind Davis Dam in the early 1950s.

In the 1960s developers began advertising local subdivisions in Southern California, and the retirement population began to grow. Bullhead City incorporated in 1984, and the population has grown from just over 10,000 residents in 1980 to more than 45,000 today.

Several choices of championship golf courses are offered in the area, including desert target-style courses along with traditional country clubs, and all feature prices much lower than those found in larger cities in the Southwest.

Bullhead City is home to the Arizona Veterans Memorial, a riverfront park with statues and monuments honoring Arizonans who lost their lives serving our country. The Arizona Veterans Memorial itself stands nine feet high and 40 feet wide. It displays 11 bronze plaques carrying the names of more than 3,000 service men and women from Arizona who were killed in all the wars and armed conflicts of the last 100 years. On each side of the curved memorial wall are giant bronze eagles surrounded by 50 stars, each representing one of the 50 United States. The riverfront memorial park is open year-round and admission is free.

The Colorado River Valley is known across the Southwest as a year-round vacation paradise, offering a choice between the cold, fast-flowing Colorado River and the warm, smooth waters of Lake Mohave. Both are perfect for water sports such as boating, skiing, riding personal watercrafts and sport fishing throughout the year.

Fishing has always been one of the region’s claims to fame. The area holds the world’s record for the largest freshwater striped bass ever caught. Weighing in at 67 pounds, 1 ounce, and measuring 47.5 inches in length, it was caught in Lake Mohave, north of Bullhead City, in 1997. In 1983, a then-world-record striper – weighing more than 58 pounds – was caught just below Davis Dam in Bullhead City.

Local fishing guides report catching striper – by far the largest fish in the area – in the 20- to 30-pound range regularly and say these giants are numerous in the Bullhead City area.

Other species found in the area also grow to gigantic proportions for their type. The area’s record cutthroat trout was caught in the Colorado River just below Davis Dam. It weighted in at nine pounds, eight ounces, and was 30.5 inches long. Rainbow trout also are plentiful in the Colorado River and in the cooler spots in lakes Mohave and Mead, with the largest on record – at 21 pounds, 5.5 ounces – caught near Willow Beach at the north end of Lake Mohave.

Anglers have had luck with several other species in the area, such as sunfish, crappie, catfish and largemouth and smallmouth bass. The region’s record catfish haul was a channel cat weighing 35 pounds, 4 ounces, taken at Topock Marsh way back in 1952. The Arizona state catch-and-release record smallmouth bass – measuring 21 inches (no weights are recorded) – was caught in Lake Havasu in 2005.

Fishing is popular throughout the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, including on Lake Mohave and Lake Mead; along the cold, fast-moving Colorado River; in the shallow, reed-filled waters of Topock Marsh, located about 15 miles downriver from Bullhead City; and in Lake Havasu’s warm waters. Boat rentals and fishing guides are available in several locations.

Regular special events, including the Bullhead City River Regatta, Hardyville Days, Avi Kwa Ame Pow Wow, rodeos, concerts, an annual motorcycle rally, chili cook-offs and community barbecues, provide family-friendly activities, and the climate is perfect for outdoor recreation all year long. A variety of lodging, dining and shopping experiences are offered by the area’s many businesses, and the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe offers casino resorts and a championship golf course close by.

Whether you’re planning a long vacation or a short one, Bullhead City is a hub for enjoying many interesting activities in the surrounding region. The area’s wide selection of accommodations – from campgrounds, RV parks and houseboats to full-service resort hotels – makes the Colorado River Valley a great vacation value.

(Brought to you by the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce)

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