HomeChapter 1: History of the ColoradoChapter 2: Needles AreaChapter 3: On the Road - Needles to BlytheChapter 4: Blythe areaChapter 5: On the Road - Blythe to MexicoChapter 6: Yuma AreaChapter 7: On the Road - Yuma to Lake Havasu CityChapter 8 - Lake Havasu CityChapter 9 - Lake Havasu City to Topock AZContact Us


Blythe is located on Interstate 10 in the Palo Verde Valley at the California/Arizona border.  Agriculture and tourism make up a very large part of the economy of the city.  Quartzite, Arizona is the nearest town to the east, and Desert Center California is the next larger town to the west.  Interstate 10 is the main east-west artery.  I-10 starts in Santa Monica, California and terminates in Jacksonville, Florida.  US Highway 95 goes through Blythe, and terminates in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho.  The Blythe Municipal Airport serves air travelers.  Principal agricultural production consists of hay, cotton and row crops.  Blythe incorporated as a city in 1916.  There were 21,950 people living in Blythe in 2004, which includes 8,744 inmates in the two state prisons in the area.  There are many city and county parks, and most are located on or near the Colorado.  The River can be navigated from the diversion dam 15 miles upstream to the Laguna Dam in Yuma, eighty miles away. Other activities here include rock hounding, prospecting, hiking, biking, camping, wildlife and bird watching, amateur astronomy, exploring ghost towns and old mines, water skiing, swimming and boating.






Historic downtown Blythe


The Palo Verde and Parker Valleys have been populated since time immemorial.  Native-American tribes and families like the Mojave, Quechan, Halchidom, Yavapai and Chemehuevi traveled up and down the river.  Some of them lived along the river in half-submerged huts called "jukis."   The "Cuna de Aztlan" (Cradle of Aztlan) was said to be centered in the Palo Verde/Parker Valley areas.  While some of the historical evidence is in dispute, the intaglios, pictographs, petroglyphs, songs and oral history substantiate some of the historical conclusions. 


The Quechan Trail was the main north/south trail that began at Spirit Mountain north of Needles.  It went through the Chemehuevi and Palo Verde Valleys, and terminated at Pilot Knob west of Yuma.  The Native-Americans used this trail extensively to trade with other Tribes.  The mountains were sacred to the Indians.  Traces of their presence were left at the Mule Mountains, Big Maria Mountains, and the Twin Peaks of the Picachos.  There was said to be a pyramid built in the vicinity of Parker Valley.  It was 20 feet high and 104 feet square at the base.  No trace of the pyramid has been found.


In 1853 Major Samuel Keintzelman, Commander of Fort Yuma, claimed to have found some large adobe ruins on a riverside bluff in the Palo Verde Valley.  The structures were said to be part of a settlement the Quechan called Hut-Ta-Me-Mi.  In 1903 a cowboy claimed to find similar adobe's nearby, but floods destroyed them before historians and archaeologists could inspect them.  Other adobe ruins, apparently of Native-American origin, have been found in the area as recently as 1953.


Blythe is named for Thomas Blythe, who in his 60's had an ambitious plan for new land development on the western banks of the Colorado River in the late 1870s.   




It has been said that Blythe used deceit to take possession of the land.  Swampland was supposed to be the only land available under the State Swamp and Overflow Act.  When he filed for ownership he claimed to have rowed all the way across the Palo Verde Valley, but omitted mention that his rowboat was carried in a wagon towed by mules.  The deception was successful, and Blythe took control of 40,000 acres of prime California land.


Already experienced with such undertakings, including a 40-acre experimental farm north of Fort Yuma, the linchpin was a cut diversion of Colorado River into irrigation channels for his development scheme, with water rights secured in 1877 and blasting completed by 1882.  Edwin F. Williams, who nearly single-handedly transformed Thomas Blythe's idea into over 100,000 acres of farmland, further developed the valley.


Surveyors from the US Government land office were active in this area at the same time, and were supplied by the steamboats.  Oliver P. Calloway was one of the Surveyors.  He had previously helped build the old San Diego to Yuma Plank Road.  He also teamed up with Thomas Blythe and George S. Irish to build the first irrigation canals in the valley.  Agricultural development continued until Blythe died in 1883.  With all his assets tied up in court for many years, the financial support ceased.  Calloway and Irish sold all the implements and turned the money over to the estate.  Calloway died in March 1880 when an Indian named "Big Bill" murdered him in a dispute over employment.  He is buried in a northern part of the valley in a casket that had mahogany fittings from an abandoned saloon in Ehrenberg. 


Agricultural development resumed in 1904, when Frank Murphy and Ed Williams, cattlemen from Arizona, bought up the Blythe estate.  They and others formed the Palo Verde Land and Water Company.  The company assumed rights to sell the water stock, which was issued for the entire valley, at a price of their choosing.  Development of levee and drainage districts ensued after work in the irrigation system resumed.  In 1921, the residents petitioned the State and the Palo Verde Irrigation District Act was passed, combining all three functions into one entity.  Hoover Dam was completed in 1935 further regulating flood flows, agriculture resumed and the area generally prospered.


During World War II, the Morton Air Academy was active at Gary Field in Blythe.  The civilian academy trained would-be pilots for the government.  Some famous people attended the academy, including a future Air Force Chief of Staff, a future Las Vegas billionaire, and actor Robert Taylor.


Today Blythe is a lively city of 12,155 citizens.  Agriculture and tourism are still primary economic factors, and the two state prisons nearby are a more recent economic factor.


No visit to Blythe is complete until the visitor rubs elbows with the regulars at the Horny Toad Saloon.  




 Horny Toad Saloon


Civic Events


The Colorado River Fair is held in March each year in Blythe.  The fair offers a car show and stock car racing along with the standard fair faire.  The Blythe Bluegrass Festival happens on the 3rd weekend of every January, and is said to be one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the US.  The 2008 lineup lists 11 different artists or groups.  The Colorado River Jazz Festival is held the 3rd weekend of every February.  Typical of Blythe's multi-cultural influence, the 2008 festival features a Latin band and a Cowboy Jazz band, among others.




The Palo Verde Valley is mostly flat, with Blythe being at 267 feet above sea level.  The Chuckwalla Mountains extend in a generally northeast/southwest direction west of Blythe and south to the Chocolate Mountains.  Most of the mountains were declared wilderness in 1994.  The Big Maria Mountains begin north of Blythe and extend to Vidal.  The highest peak is 3,379 feet above sea level.  The Eagles Nest Mine is found here.  The McCoy Mountains begin about 10 miles west of Blythe just north of I-10.  The Mule Mountains take off where the McCoy's end in Imperial County. 




Today's "Blythe Intake" is a historical marker approximately five miles north of the city off one of US 95's side roads.  It marks the intake diversion from the river and the site where Blythe's first legal water rights claim was made; the present-day Palo Verde Diversion Dam (completed 1957) routes water into the Palo Verde Valley on the basis of that original claim to this day. This dam was borne of a problem with our old friend, the Hoover Dam. Although downstream flow was greatly improved after the sealing of the Dam in 1935, after some time the simultaneously lower water volumes greatly reduced the carrying capacity of the original Intake ("C" Canal, being the northernmost and largest of its tributaries) and seriously threatened crops.  A temporary weir was created in 1945 until the authorization and completion of the present-day Diversion Dam.


Blythe Museums


The Palo Verde Valley Historical Museum is located at 150 N. Broadway in Blythe.  The site is called the Port Cultural Center, donated by the Port family for that purpose.  On display are antique agricultural equipment, military uniforms of past Blythe residents, period furniture, and an impressive set of document files.


The Black History Museum and Cultural Society is located at 227 ½ E. Hobson Way, and features the many cultural contributions made by African-Americans in the area.




While water sports on the River dominate most of the recreational activities, there are plenty of other things to do around Blythe.  Hiking, off-road vehicle sports, hunting, rock hounding and prospecting are other pursuits.  There are also plenty of gem and mineral shows and swap meets in the area.  Back on the water, there are 95 miles of navigable water between Blythe and Yuma.  Some of these activities will be described in the On the Road Section that follows.   There are 6 city parks, seven campgrounds, seven RV parks, three boat ramps and 3 county parks in and around Blythe.


Camping and RV Parks


There are 5 RV parks, two county parks and three resorts listed in the Blythe Yellow Pages.


Mayflower Park is 6 miles north of Blythe off 6th Avenue and Colorado River Road. 



 Mayflower County Park


The 24-acre site has 28 tent and 152 RV sites, boating/fishing, showers, a heated swimming pool, swimming lagoons and a boat ramp.  Nightly fees range from $16.00-$18.00, with several discounts.  The local phone number is 760-922-4665.   


Hidden Beaches River Resort is located right near Mayflower Park.  It offers Colorado riverfront camping, 77 campsites, a boat launch and dock, a store, fishing supplies and WiFi.  Their phone number is 760-922-7276, and the web site is


The McIntyre RV Resort offers all river, RV and camping opportunities, including tent camping.  Reservations can be made at 760-922-8205, or on-line at




Entrance to McIntyre RV Park


The Blythe KOA Campground is located along the river, at 14100 Riviera Drive.  It offers over 300 full hook-up sites, a boat launching and landing area, gas, 50 amp service, laundry and shower facilities, and a community center.  Rates were not listed on their web site.  The listed phone number is 800-562-3948.  Their E-Mail address is, and reservations can be made on-line at


The Riviera-Blythe Marina is a privately operated campground located along the river south of and adjacent to I-10.  There is a launching fee of $7 per boat.  The 14-acre concession-operated park is the most developed of all the local parks, and offers boating, fishing and swimming lagoons, a boat launching ramp, supplies, a laundromat, a store, propane and other amenities.  The listed phone number is 619-922-5350.


Peter McIntyre County Park is a well-developed fee-site about 6 miles south of Blythe with large grassy sites and shade trees.  If offers 140 tent and 160 RV sites.  No pets are allowed from April through November.  Other amenities are very similar to the Riviera-Blythe Marina.



About 14 miles south of Blythe an unpaved road leads to river access at Horace Miller County Park, an undeveloped riverfront area.  It offers primitive camping and fishing, but has no facilities or water.


Other Accommodations


Blythe has all of the standard franchise hotels and restaurants.  Lodging ranges from inns and suites to Motel 6 to bed and breakfast.  Restaurants range from steak houses to pizza joints to fast food to coffee and tea shops.


Downstream River Mileage Chart Blythe area (California Side)





Interstate 10 Bridge

Peter McIntyre County Park


Peter McIntyre County Park

Horace Miller County Park


Total Miles