You may recall that in Chapter 2 we followed U. S. Highway 95 southward from Needles to Blythe. U. S.
Highway 95 is known as the "Loneliest Highway in the US." It is one of only three Highways that have not been
altered or re-routed since inception. The southern terminus is at the US/Mexican border in San Luis, a few miles south
of Yuma, and ends at the US/Canadian border in Eastport Idaho, over 1,500 miles from San Luis. Along the way, it makes
ports-of-call in places like Scotty's Junction in Death Valley, Henderson Nevada, Burns Junction in Oregon and Weiser, Idaho.
In this Chapter we will follow Arizona 95 northward from Yuma to Lake Havasu City. Along the way we will explore the
river area, communities and points of interest too many to mention.
The Highway heads north from the port
of entry at San Luis, 20 miles south of Yuma. It is co-named East 16th Street and 9th Street South
heading easterly in Yuma proper, then heads north out of town past Fortuna Road.
The Gila River
meets the Colorado River just north of Yuma. The Gila River is 649 miles long, and drains much of southern Arizona and
even parts of New Mexico. It originates in the Black Range of western New Mexico on the western slope of the continental
divide, flows westward into Arizona past Phoenix, bends around the Gila Mountains west of Phoenix, and through the Sonoran
Desert to Yuma. By the time it reaches the Colorado much of its water has been diverted for irrigation, leaving it a
mere stream at the confluence. Its tributaries from east to west are the San Francisco, Salt, San Pedro, Verde, and
Agua Fria Rivers. The Gila served as the original boundary between America and New Mexico, until the Gadsden Purchase
of 1853 extended U. S. territory southward to its present location.
The Gila monster (Heloderma
suspectum) is the only venomous lizard in the United States.
Gila Monster. Courtesy Gary Nasif, calherp.com
The name "Gila monster" is derived
from the Gila River basin, which is part of its territory. The Greek word Heloderma means "studded skin",
which refers to the small, bony plates that appear as beads. Many myths are associated with the Gila monster, including
the idea that its very breath is toxic. This may stem from a defensive tactic of facing the threat, hissing loudly and
jumping at their molester. The skin color is black with intricate patterns of yellow, pink and orange beads. The Gila
monster eats small rodents, juvenile birds and bird eggs, as well as an occasional other reptile. It has been known
to devour the eggs of the Desert Tortoise. It kills its prey by gnashing venom, which is a neurotoxin, into the prey.
It eats very large meals infrequently, storing fat in its tail. It can eat one-third its body weight in one meal, and
can easily survive on three to four meals a year. The Gila monster is neither endangered nor threatened, but in Arizona
they are protected from collection and/or possession.
Point of Interest - Betty's Kitchen
Kitchen is a Watchable Wildlife and Interpretive Trail area operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Footbridge at Betty's Kitchen
The area was named for Mrs. Betty Davidson, who worked at a café/bar
that was established in the area in the ‘30's. The small, close-knit community of Betty's Kitchen existed until
the ‘60's, when residential leases were prepared for all the residents. A massive flood in 1983 destroyed most
traces of the community, with only one small, adobe-style house left standing about a half-mile west.
Interpretive Trail was designated a National Recreational Trail in 1993. The half-mile long Interpretive Trail takes
you through dense vegetation and over a footbridge with signs along the way explaining what is happening or occurring around
you. Betty's Kitchen is open for day use only. The daily fee is $10, self-paid at fee standpipes near the entrance.
The site is fully accessible, and has rest rooms and trash collection.
Access is by way of Avenue 7E (Laguna
Dam Road) off Highway 95 seven miles north of Yuma. The road passes through lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprout and other
vegetable fields, the old town site of Kool Korners, and the Laguna Dam to the interpretive area. Vestiges of Kool Korners
can be seen, including the cemetery and the former "Kool Korner" grocery store.
Kool Korner grocery store (closed)
The McPhaul Bridge, or "Swinging Bridge to Nowhere",
is about 18 miles north of Yuma spanning the Gila River. The 800 foot long suspension bridge was originally
called the Dome Bridge, but was renamed after a local old-timer named Harry McPhaul. It was built to cross the Gila
River. It was modeled after the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. When a dam was built upstream in 1968, the
Gila River was diverted and the highway was rerouted over a much smaller bridge. A flood in 1993 destroyed the new bridge
while the Bridge to Nowhere, spanning only desert sand, survived intact.
Bridge to nowhere
The Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG) takes up vast portions of the desert landscape
north of Yuma. The grounds were established in 1943 to provide for the testing of experimental desert military vehicles.
The Light Armored Vehicle Test Directorate is a Marine Corps detachment that is attached to YPG to conduct tests on light
armored vehicles. The purpose of the test site is to test new bridge designs, boats, vehicles, and well-drilling equipment.
Much of the test branch construction was performed by Italian prisoners of war. Today live weapons test firing can be
heard frequently in the area. Most (if not all) of YPG is closed to the public.
Road intersects the 95 near the Yuma Proving Grounds, and heads westward to the river.
to Martinez Lake, Fisher's Landing and Imperial NWR
Construction of the Imperial Dam in 1935 created
Martinez and Ferguson Lakes and several smaller lakes nearby with names like Ice Box and Bullet Hole.
While officially only 300 to 500 acres in size, in reality it is hard
to tell where the river ends and Lake Martinez starts. The resort started as a fishing camp in the 50's, and has grown
to a full-blown recreationist's paradise. Boat traffic in the summer months can be hectic to say the least when jet
boats, jet skiers and canoeists compete for waterway space, particularly on Ferguson Lake. Bird watchers flock to the
lake in the spring and fall to view and take pictures of migratory bird species. Fishermen hold sway in the winter,
plying the waters silently in search of that giant whiskerfish. Largemouth bass, striped bass, and flatheads as heavy as 70
pounds live in the waters also. Safety is the Rule of the Day, as Martinez is also heavily patrolled by the Department
of Fish and Game, the California Safety Patrol and the Yuma County Sheriff.
The Martinez Lake
Resort has Motel Cabins from $65 per day (summer) to $50 per day (winter), a Motel on the water with rooms from $75 per day
(summer) to $57.50 (winter), Nomad trailer rentals from $87.50 per day (summer) to $67.50 (winter), and an RV park with rates
from $20 per day (year round). Boat slips can also be rented per day. The Cantina restaurant features a home-style
menu with favorites from appetizers to Char-broiled steak, pasta and salads, dessert and dancing on Saturday nights.
A variety of watercraft can be rented, from kayaks to pontoon boats. More information can be obtained from their website
(http://www.martinezlake.com/), by calling 1-800-876-7004, or by E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fisher's Landing is about 1/3 of a mile south of the Martinez Lake Resort.
The site is the original location of the early-day town of Castle Dome Landing,
which at the time was the first stop for sternwheelers coming north from the Gulf of California. A post office served
the area from 1875 to 1884. It was a lively town during its hey-day, but after the nearby Castle Dome mines played out
there was no longer a need for the Landing. The town site was inundated by the construction of the Imperial Dam.
The Golf Cart Parade on the Saturday following Thanksgiving is a popular local diversion. The Fisher's Landing RV Park
has 352 spaces. River tours take place almost every day, and depart from Fisher's Landing. Lunch, full day and
sunset dinner cruises on the Colorado King I sternwheeler range from $45 to $54 per person. The sternwheeler has an
open upper deck for great views of the river, and an enclosed lower deck with restrooms and a snack bar. Four to five
hour and six to seven hour jet boat tours travel into the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and stops at historic sites like
Norton's Landing along the way. Prices range from $60 to $95 per person. Reservations are required for all tours,
and prices are subject to change. For more information call 928-783-4400, or visit the tour website at http://www.yumarivertours.com/.
The headquarters for the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is three miles north of Martinez
Lake off Red Cloud Mine Road. Imperial and the adjacent Cibola NWR further north serve to protect, preserve and restore
more than 40 miles of river/riparian habitat on both sides of the river. Much of the river in this area was once cottonwood/willow
forest. Many animals depended on this type habitat. But fire, woodcutting, clearing for agriculture and the introduction
of exotic plants eliminated nearly all of the cottonwood/willow forests. Workers at both Refuges are working steadily
to restore the native habitat. A visit to either of the Refuges today reveals much yet to be done. Salt Cedar,
an introduced exotic tree, is prevalent in many areas.
November 5th, 2007 marked the date of
completion of the first Lower Colorado River backwater habitat restoration project. Six large ponds consisting of 80
acres of restored native habitat were constructed at the Imperial NWR by the Bureau of Reclamation. The ponds will provide
habitat for the razorback sucker and bonytail chub, both native fishes of the Lower Colorado. Over the next few years
two other projects will come on line in the area: A 12-acre marsh to provide habitat for marsh birds, and a native 34-acre
cottonwood/willow forest. The habitat restoration program is intended to restore native plant communities along the
river, which are home to 26 plant or animal species, six of which are threatened.
A wetland is a very complex
habitat, and so is restoring it when it becomes altered. The introduction of non-native plants is only part of the picture.
Damming, water diversion and extraction, and soil composition alteration all have detrimental effects on a wetland.
Damming has a particularly adverse effect because it changes a river to a lake. So-called "pulse flooding"
(occurring during spring thaw) doesn't happen anywhere near as much as it did before the dams. So many rivers world-wide
have been tamed by damming that examples of a natural hydrologic flow regime are few. To achieve success, any
restoration project must account for all of the natural and man-made processes that led to the alteration of the native habitat.
Painted Desert Trail is off Red Cloud Mine Road north of the Visitor Center.
Painted Desert Trail
An interpretive brochure and map can be picked up at the trailhead. The
1.3 mile long loop trail is of average difficulty, with some moderate short climbs and uneven terrain. Volcanic activity
30,000 years ago left a rainbow of colors along the trail. The trail also features water-eroded columns of rock called
"hoodoos", fine examples of Sonoran Desert plants, and a scenic view of the Colorado River Valley about half-way
Painted Desert Trail
If you visit in the spring, and there was adequate rainfall the previous winter,
there may be beautiful displays of desert annual flowers. The desert flowers are quick to take advantage of favorable
conditions. Given adequate winter rainfall, they will bloom in later winter or early spring, sometimes as early as February.
By the time the summer heat has set in, their life cycle is complete and their seeds have been sown.
Cloud Mine Road can be followed northward to the Trigo Mountains Wilderness Area. This wilderness is hemmed in by the
Yuma Proving Grounds and the Imperial NWR, and is seldom visited. The 14 miles of the Trigo crest line are bisected
by the Clip, Red Cloud and Hart Washes. There are few if any trails or old roads in the area.
Road leads northerly from Martinez Lake and heads toward the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the town of Cibola.
This 50-mile long unpaved road is not for an RV, but is a dirt-road traveler's delight.
One of many ghost
towns along the river is 31 miles upstream from Fisher's Landing. Clip was named after the nearby mine that was the
purpose for the community. Two hundred hearty soles lived here and most worked in the silver mine. A post office
served the residents from 1884 to 1888. The mine was productive, yielding over $1 million in silver before it played
Norton's Landing is a stopover on some of the river tours, and is only accessible by boat. It
was originally a stopover for the paddle-wheelers providing supplies for the Red Cloud Mine. The former town site along
the river was named for G. W. Norton, and for a time had a bridge across the Colorado. A post office operated from 1883
to 1894. Most of the town site was inundated by river damming, but some foundations and mining debris remain.
Today the Landing is owned by Yuma River Tours, and they offer river tour customers picnic and overnight camping areas, restrooms,
a gift shop and many artifacts from bygone days. Canoeists and kayakers often plan a stopover at the historic site.
Back on Highway 95, we resume travel northward. Castle Dome Mine Road
intersects with 95 and leads to the ghost town of Castle Dome.
The Castle Dome Mining District is one of the oldest District's in Arizona, having been
established in 1862. It wasn't the stunning mountains that attracted people, it was the valuable ore found here.
Silver and lead were mined here in the late 1800's, and the mine operators actually built a road from here to the river just
south of Fisher's Landing. There they established the Castle Dome Landing, which became a stop for the paddle-wheelers
trolling up from the Gulf of California.
Mining didn't last long here. The silver played out fairly
early, and the lead wasn't anywhere near as valuable. Translucent purple fluorite is a by-product of mining, and can
be found here scattered amongst the mining litter. Calcite, Galena, Quartz, Wulfenite and possibly Vanadite can also
be found here. The abandoned Hull Mine is in one of the primary mining areas in the District. The mine does not
have timber supports, which is actually a good sign. The miners felt the surrounding rock was strong enough to support
the shafts without any additional support. The presence of wood timbers in mine shafts should serve as a warning that
the shaft could be unstable. If it was unstable back then and needed supporting, it is likely even less stable today.
Be forewarned if deciding to enter any mine shaft. Here you can explore mines hundreds of feet into the mountain, assuming
a predilection to do so in the first place. Stale, oxygen-depleted air is another threat in abandoned mines. This
can lead to grogginess and a loss of orientation and energy. Mine shafts should never be explored alone.
town of Castle Dome sprung up as a result of the mining activity. A post office served the residents for only one year,
closing in 1876. You can learn about the extensive mining in this area at the Castle Dome Mines Museum.
Castle Dome museum
Today twenty of the town buildings have been restored, and many mining
artifacts are on display. The buildings include a hotel, saloons, an assay office, the sheriff's office and jail, a
blacksmith shop, and others. The museum has many more artifacts, including Levi's jeans over 100 years old. The
museum charges a small fee to explorers of the town and surroundings, and it is well worth the price.
mine and museum are located on Castle Dome Mine Road off Highway 95, about 40 miles north of Yuma. If you come here
as a camper or rock hound, please obey any private property and posted claims in this area.
on Highway 95, we continue northward toward Quartzsite.
The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge begins
about 40 miles north of Yuma.
Entrance to Kofa Wildlife Refuge
A number of mines were established in the Kofa Mountain Range in
the late 1800's-early 1900's. Chief among them was the King of Arizona Mine, which gave the mountain range its' name,
"Kofa" being contracted from King of Arizona. The Kofa NWR was established in 1939. The Kofa and Castle
Dome mountain ranges are part of the 665,400 acres that make up the NWR. A herd of approximately 1,000 Bighorn Sheep
live here. They are generally secretive and very nimble, galloping across impossible slopes and rocks. Several
natural and man-made water sources sustain the herd. Desert Tortoise, Desert Kit Fox, and a large variety of birds make
Kofa home. A rare plant called the Kofa Mountain barberry is found on the Refuge. Eighty-two percent of the acreage
was declared wilderness in 1990. One of the most popular visiting spots in the Refuge is Palm Canyon, where a cluster
of California Fan Palms thrive. The palms can be seen and photographed from a viewing point a half-mile from the parking
area, but direct access to them should only be attempted by people acclimated to strenuous hikes. Hiking and camping
is permitted anywhere on the Refuge, although vehicles must stay within 100 feet of established roads. More than 300
miles of dirt roads criss-cross the Refuge, but most are accessible only to high-clearance and/or all-wheel drive vehicles.
Camping is not permitted within a mile of watering holes.
The Engesser Pass Trail is a long path that
goes through the Refuge. It begins at the east end of King Valley Road in the Kofa Mining District, and can be combined
with Bighorn Pass to make it a loop drive. The road passes through a wide variety of scenery, past current and abandoned
mines (obey No Trespassing signs), and takes you through Hoodoo Wash leading to the historic Wilbanks Cabin. High clearance
4WD vehicles are recommended, although most stock SUV's would find the trail accessible.
The Big Eye Wash
Trail also begins in the NWR. The trail begins off Castle Dome Road near the Museum and quickly becomes a single
track. It runs southeast along the mountains, passing by the Colorado Mine with its' adits and wood-lined shafts. Crosses
mark an unnamed cemetery across from the Mine. The Trail passes through beautiful desert scenery with panoramic views
of King Valley and the Tank Mountains. High clearance vehicles are recommended, and 4WD may be required.
of Kofa, Highway 95 continues northward through pristine, unpopulated desert scenery.
Highway 95 northbound
South of the small community of Stone Cabin, a dirt road leads westward
45 miles to Cibola Lake and the Cibola NWR, mentioned earlier. This road can be followed to the original town of Cibola,
now a ghost town.
The town was formed in the Cibola Valley in 1898, about 16 miles east of present-day
Cibola. A 16-mile long canal was built to bring Colorado River water to the town. The town served farmers in the
area, and a post office operated until 1933. All the remains are on private property, and permission is required
to visit the site.
This part of Arizona is home to the smallest owl in the world, the Elf Owl (Micrathene
Elf Owl. Courtesy BLM.
The Elf Owl nests in Saguaro cactus and occasionally in
cottonwood trees near the river. It is a nocturnal, migratory owl the size of a sparrow. Its normal range is from
central Mexico north to southern Texas, central Arizona, and the southern tip of Nevada and along the California side of the
Colorado River. Its normal diet consists of insects, spiders, scorpions and small mammals. Most prey is captured
in flight, due to their high degree of flight maneuverability. They migrate to Mexico in September, and return in March.
They are occasionally attracted to campfires, apparently chasing insects drawn by the light. The most important threat
to the Elf Owl is the loss of riparian and desert scrub habitats. The original habitat along the full length of the
Colorado River was cottonwood/willow. Very few areas of cottonwood/willow remain in the southern end of the river, replaced
by agriculture and invasive exotic plants. Urban areas are encroaching on desert scrub habitat almost everywhere.
The work that the Imperial and Cibola NWR's are doing to restore native habitat can be incalculable when it comes to saving
many species of plants and animals from extinction.
The New Water Mountains Wilderness Area is between
the Kofa NWR and I-10 east of Highway 95. About 20 old roads through the area are now closed, but can be explored on
foot. A large volcanic butte called Black Mesa looms over the Ranegras Plain at 3,639 feet above sea level. New
Water and Dripping Springs are prime lambing areas for Bighorn sheep. There are many colorful craggy spires, sheer rock
outcrops and natural arches in the wilderness. The western end of the area can be reached via Gold Nugget Road south
As we approach Quartzsite, we enter the La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). Here you
will begin to see hundreds of RV's camped off the road, especially in the winter. The attraction for spending tens (if
not hundreds) of thousands of dollars on an RV, securing the homestead, driving thousands of miles and parking next to the
highway for months at a time, amidst others doing the same thing, is lost on the author. But it is an obvious life style
attraction for literally thousands of people.
The La Posa LTVA straddles both sides of Highway 95
less than a mile south of town. The fee is $5 per day or $50 annually for an up to 7-month stay (between September 15th
and April 15th). Additional fees may apply. South La Posa is the main area, and has water, dump and
garbage disposal. West La Posa has garbage disposal only. Tyson Wash has garbage disposal, rest rooms and a telephone.
All of the locations have BLM personnel at their main entrances. Some of the plots are within walking distance of Quartzsite.
In the winter high temperatures are typically in the 60's, but low temperatures can approach freezing. BLM enforces
a slew of rules and regulations pertaining to LTVA use. The best site to review them is http://www.blm.gov/.
Highway 95 intersects with Interstate 10 in the town of Quartzsite Arizona.
was founded in 1867 at the site of old Fort Tyson.
Fort Tyson was built in 1856 by Charles Tyson for protection from Indian raids.
Water was found nearby and Tyson's Well was dug. The site served as a stage stop between Ehrenberg and Prescott for
a period of time. The town that sprung up nearby was named Quartzsite after the quartz found in the hills,
and the name evolved through a spelling error. Hadji Ali came to Quartzsite in 1856. He was a camel driver.
His name was hard to pronounce, and evolved into "Hi Jolly." He came to Quartzsite with the U. S. Army, which
was conducting an experiment using camels as desert pack animals. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale had successfully lobbied
Congress for a $30,000 appropriation from Congress to try out the famous "ships of the desert". Funding for
the Camel Military Corps was approved in 1853. It took a while to acquire and transport the animals to Texas and then
to train local men to handle the obnoxious beasts, one of whom was Ali. Beale's caravan strode across much of the Yuma
Territory, including the area along the river. One day, while trying to figure out how to get the animals across the
river to California, Beale was surprised to see a steamboat on the river. It was Captain Johnson and the General Jesup,
on their way back from their upstream expedition. Beale was most surprised, the Jesup being the first such steamboat
to get this far north, and most pleased for another reason. His camels could not cross the river while fully loaded.
An amused Johnson agreed to transport the men and supplies to the other side, making a swim by the unfettered camels possible.
Beale's camel caravan ultimately opened up a major wagon route across the territory until funding finally ran out. Ali,
who later changed his name to Phillip Tedrow, kept several camels and used them to transport freight across the desert.
His venture faltered later, and in 1868 he cut his animals loose near Gila Bend. Camel sightings were reported for many
years thereafter. Ali is buried in the Quartzsite cemetery, where a monument marks "Hi Jolly's Last Camp."
Mining activity dominated the Quartzsite area later in the 19th and into the 20th
century. Various mining sites were inhabited by as many as hundreds of individuals and families, searching for minerals.
Remnants of mining sites can be found in and around Quartzsite.
In the 60's Quartzsite was
a sleepy town occupied by a flock of snowbirds and RV'ers. Things around Quartzsite had become a little stagnant, so
resident Glen Fulton called a meeting of the townsfolk. Soon thereafter the Quartzsite Improvement Association was created
to draw attention to the natural attractions. Rocks and gems were made the center of attraction, and soon the Pow Wow
Rock and Gem show debuted. The rest is history. In January and February thousands of people flock to Quartzsite
to attend the annual rock and gem shows that abound. The so-called "flea markets" (or swap meets) are scattered
throughout the city, on vacant lots and on city sidewalks. So prevalent are the temporary shops that it is reminiscent
of a south-of-the-border shopping experience. During the rock and gem shows and swap meets, Quartzsite can be extremely
crowded. Lines of vehicles 2-3 miles long on adjacent highways waiting to creep into town are common.
about 3,600 residents make Quartzsite their permanent home.
From Quartzsite, Interstate 10 heads west
and US Highway 95 shares the roadway to Blythe. The paved road north from Quartzsite becomes State Highway 95.
To stay near the river, we will follow I-10 to Ehrenberg, and go north on the Ehrenberg/Poston Highway to Parker.
Arizona is about 18 miles west of Quartzsite. The Bradshaw Ferry Landing served as the original township location, and
the original name was La Paz. Thousands of prospectors came to La Paz via the Bradshaw Trail during the Gold Rush of
the 1860's. Thirty to fifty people would cross the river to La Paz a day. The trip from San Bernardino California
would set a passenger back forty bucks. The prospectors flocked to the hills outside La Paz, pock marking them with
mine shafts and mining claims. As many as 5,000 people called La Paz home, which had spread to cover 270 city blocks.
Along with the prospectors came the usual collection of followers. Girls, gamblers and shysters all were looking to
separate a guileless prospector from his gold nuggets. By 1870 most of the gold had been mined, and La Paz began to
decline. The railroad had replaced the crossing, arriving in La Paz in 1877, and the paddle wheelers which used to stop
nearly every day now were stopped themselves by the Laguna Dam. The town died almost as fast as it had blossomed, and
today only one water well and a few foundations are all that remain. La Paz was later renamed Ehrenberg in honor of
local mining engineer Herman Ehrenberg. Today Ehrenberg is a gritty, no-nonsense community with a population of
about 1,300 (2000 census).
The River Breeze RV Resort in Ehrenberg offers 94 sites with full hookups,
43 64x40 pull-through sites, tent and triple-slide-out sites, concrete pads and shaded grassy areas. The facilities
include a boat ramp, laundry facilities, a heated pool and spa, laundry facilities, propane gas, and more. No rates
were listed on their web site (http://www.riverbreezerv.com/). The listed phone number is 928-923-7483. Reservation information can be inquired via E-Mail to email@example.com.
The Colorado River Oasis RV Resort is also located in Ehrenberg. They offer 150 full hook-up sites
and 50 amp service, cabins, a boat ramp and swimming area, laundry and showers, and a store. They have an activity schedule
that includes live entertainment at certain times of the year. Their rates begin at $30 per night, with some surcharges
and some discounts available. The maximum stay is two days, and reservations are not accepted. Their web address
is http://www.westernhorizonresorts.com/, and their phone number is 928-846-3421.
The Ehrenberg Sand Bowl OHV Area is just south of Ehrenberg
on Ehrenberg/Cibola Levee Road. Approximately 2,000 acres of sand dunes are open to vehicular travel. Permits
are required to enter the area, and fee amounts are available at the self-serve kiosk in the parking lot. Annual permits
are available from the Yuma BLM office or from the host at the Oxbow Campground, 20 miles south.
road leading northward from Ehrenberg is variously called the Ehrenberg/Poston Highway, Mohave Road, Parker/Poston Road, and
Indian Route 1. Residential streets and cultivated fields give way to desert expanse north of Ehrenberg.
Although the Ehrenberg/Poston Highway parallels the river, there are few recreational
facilities near here. Some dirt roads lead directly to water, but there are no improvements on the Arizona side.
Being within the Reservation boundaries, it would behoove anyone wishing to explore this area further to check in with any
Tribal authority first.
The Colorado River Indian Reservation was created in 1865, and encompassed
an area from five miles north of Ehrenberg to fifty miles south of Parker. The Reservation covers 264,000 acres, and
residents include members of the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Navajo and Hopi tribes. In 1867 Congress granted $50,000 for the
development of the Indians' Grant-Dent Canal, which was completed in 1871. Irrigation commenced, but not without hardship.
Beset with canal cave-ins, alkaline water and poor drainage, there were dismal failures in the early years of agricultural
development. In 1914, only 600 acres of Indian-owned land were being irrigated. Subsequent irrigation improvements,
including improved drainage and construction of the Headrock Gate Dam in 1941, resulted in 5,000 arable acres. Other
agricultural improvements over the years increased the arable acreage to over 38,000.
resume after entering the Colorado Indian Reservation leading to the town of Poston. Poston is known for the Relocation
Camp located there during World War II. Camp Poston actually was comprised of three sites, known as Poston 1, 2 and
3. Because of its' location on an Indian Reservation, the Camp was operated by the Office of Indian Affairs (Bureau
of Indian Affairs today) rather than the War Relocation Authority. The Camp was comprised of 71,000 acres, and
during the height of activity housed 17,814 people. The most notable occurrence at Camp Poston was known as the Poston
Strike. The strike manifested itself after long-brewing tensions in the community were made worse in the camp environment.
The strike resulted in violence, and the Assistant Director of the Camp was forced to negotiate a compromise. The strike
lost momentum soon thereafter, but became a notorious footnote in the history of the Japanese/American Relocation effort.
All three camp locations finally were closed by September 1945. Of the three Camps only Poston 1 has significant remains,
consisting of several barracks buildings, the gymnasium, and a few other buildings. A large monument and kiosk were
dedicated along Mohave Road near Poston in 1992. Today Poston is a small unincorporated community with 389 permanent
residents. The surrounding area is all within the Colorado Indian Reservation, owing to Poston's high percentage of
Continuing north on the Ehrenberg/Poston Highway, Agnes Wilson Road intersects a few
Agnes Wilson bridge over the river
The westerly stretch of Agnes Wilson Road crosses over into California,
the only bridge between Highway 62 and Blythe/Ehrenberg. Ehrenberg/Poston Highway veers easterly following the course
of the river, and enters the town of Parker.
Parker was founded in 1908 and incorporated in 1948.
An initiative petition approved by voters in 1982 created La Paz County out of northern Yuma County, and Parker became the
County Seat in 1983. The population after the 2000 census was 3,140. There are ten hotels and RV Resorts in Parker,
of all price ranges and accommodations.
The 16 miles around the river near Parker is known as the Parker
The river here is actually called Lake Moovalya, the currents being backed up by the
Headgate Rock Dam further south. It is more a "swollen river" than a lake. The town was named after
Eli Parker, a Seneca Indian chief. The town was moved to the railroad tracks four miles north of the original location
in 1905. The new town site was laid out by an engineer by the name of Earl H. Parker. So it became that the naming
of the town had origins in two people named Parker. River recreation dominates the tourism industry in Parker today,
but it wasn't always so. Parker was originally a railroad stopover, until agricultural development began in 1867.
Parker had a population of 90. The economic emphasis of Parker was changing along with the irrigation developments,
evolving from freight and mining to agricultural, and eventually to construction and administrative support for the many federal
river projects along the river. Parker Dam was one of the federal river projects. It was completed in 1928 and
resulted in a 700 foot wide, 16 mile long lake. Once again, the character of Parker changed to service and tourism.
Side trip to The Snake Intaglio
The Snake Intaglio is about 10 miles
east of Parker.
Snake Intaglio (note eyes, lower right). Courtesy Ron Kilber
As mentioned earlier, intaglios
are examples of Indian earthen figures also known as geoglyphs. The purpose for them is still being debated, with the
prevalence of thought being artistic expression. The Snake Intaglio can be accessed from Shea Road, just south of an
intersection with a dirt road. Look for beehives nearby.
The Arizona and California Railroad passes
through Parker. The tracks were originally constructed between 1903 and 1907, and at that time were a subdivision of
the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line. The segment between Parker and Matthie, Arizona was completed in 1907.
In 1910 the line was extended westward to Cadiz, California, and connected with other lines heading west. In 1991 the
line was purchased by the ParkSierra RailGroup and renamed the Arizona and California Railroad. RailAmerica Inc. purchased
the ParkSierra RailGroup in 1992, and is the current owner of the line. The line provides direct access to Phoenix from
Los Angeles. Seventy-five percent of the cargo is through-freight containers from the ports to Phoenix and back, with
hay, LP gas, lumber and other commodities making up the remaining 25%.
The BlueWater Resort
and Casino is located on the shoreline one mile north of Parker.
The Aztec-themed resort has 200 rooms, an indoor water park, four-screen Theater,
outdoor amphitheater, several restaurants, a large boat marina and gaming area. The Bluewater Resort is a focal point for
community events and celebrations and celebrity entertainment year-round. For more information, visit their web site
at http://www.bluewaterfun.com/, or by calling 888-243-3360.
Community events occur in Parker most every month in the year, ranging from
the Offroad Racing Season in January, the Parker Enduro Speedboat race in May, the annual Inntertube River Float in June,
and the International "Airchair" Championships in September.
The Parker 400 Desert Race has been
held since the 1972. Originally known as the "Big River 400" then the "Dam 400", the 136-mile long
race, sponsored by the Bluewater Resort is usually held in late January or early February. Thousands of spectators come
from hundreds of miles away to watch dozens of racers tackle the course. The highly specialized and heavily sponsored
vehicles tear through the desert tracks, some flying through the air as they head for the checkered flag.
tours around Parker are available from Colorado River Buggy Expeditions. Tours leave daily from Main Street Park with
eight passengers, and last about four hours. The open-air buggy visits desert and canyon areas along the river, with
emphasis on the zoology, botany, geology and history of the area. The price is $75 per person. Information and
reservations can be made at http://www.explorearizonatours.com/.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Museum and Library has relics,
artifacts, history and information on all four of the Tribes that make up CRIT: The Mojave, Chemehuevi, Navajo and Hopi.
The museum displays an array of Indian craft works including baskets, Hopi Kachina dolls, jewelry and pottery. The museum
is at the corner of 2nd and Mohave Roads off Highway 95.
The Parker Historical Society Museum is located
at 1214 California Avenue. This museum displays antiques from the mining days as well as Indian artifacts. Photos
of the construction of Parker Dam are also on display, as well as information on the WWII Internment Camp in Poston.
Heading northeast from Parker, we pick up State Highway 95 again, which parallels the river and passes
Marina Loop Drive with more recreational facilities, and Parker Dam. The Arizona State Parks Department manages
the River Island Unit Campground, part of Buckskin Mountain State Park.
Parker Strip near Buckskin Mtn. State Park on a rare cloudy day.
The campground is located about
five miles south of Parker Dam. Sixty-eight sites are offered, ten with electricity and water and five with full hook-ups.
The campground has a group-use area with ramada, sandy beaches, restrooms with showers, a boat launch and horseshoe pits.
Campsite fees are $20 per night per vehicle, which includes water and 30 amp electrical services. Sites with sewer are
$3 more per night. Cabana fees are $23 per night, (April through October) and $20 per night (November through March),
with 15 amp service. River island campsites are $22 per vehicle per night, and the day-use fee is $8. This campground
is extremely modern, clean and efficiently run. Trails lead to a foot bridge over the highway and to abandoned mines
nearby. An interpretive center, boutique, market and restaurant are available on-site. The phone number for reservations
The Buckskin Mountain Trail is a challenging drive to a place the locals call the "Desert
Bar", better known as the Nellie E. Saloon.
The Desert Bar. Courtesy Joe Sena
People come from all over to visit this unusual attraction
in the middle of nowhere. The name originated with a mining camp where copper was mined. The saloon was completed
in 1988, and has many unusual features including windows made from old glass refrigerator doors and steel bar stools that
sway from side to side.
Across from the saloon is an outdoor bar and stage, and a horseshoe pit is
behind the outside bar. A church was built in 1996, and is made of solid steel. The walls and ceiling are made
of the same stamped tin used inside the bar, and the roof is made of copper. The church is a great photo-op and a unique
place for a wedding. The saloon is located off Cienega Springs Road five miles north of Parker.
Castle Rock Shores RV Resort is located 11 miles north of Parker and just south of Parker Dam. The resort offers bungalows
and RV sites with full hookups, summer and winter rates, weekend, weekday, weekly and monthly rates, and storage. Extra
charges for cable TV, 30 and 50 amp service, extra vehicles and boat launch apply. Reservations can be made on-line
at http://www.castlerockshores.com/. The toll-free phone number is 800-701-1277. Their E-Mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take-off Point is located immediately adjacent to Parker Dam. A boat launching ramp and handicapped-accessible
fishing pier are available. The site offers restrooms, a few dry campsites, and excellent views of lower Lake Havasu
and the rugged mountains flanking the lake.
The Bill Williams River empties into the Colorado River just
north of Parker Dam.
Side Trip to the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge
Bill Williams NWR
After Parker Dam, Highway 95 turns due east and winds above several rocky
coves, passes some exclusive new property developments, and drops down towards the estuarine mouth of the Bill Williams River.
The Bill Williams River drains a large portion of Arizona from the Alamo Reservoir to the Colorado. Where the rivers
meet the land is level, with a large riparian area. A bridge on the 95 crosses over the river, and there is an overlook
of the riparian area just past it. A gravel road leads upstream from the mouth of the river for about three miles, through
several steep ravines, then across flatter land. A cottonwood/willow forest populates the river banks, one of the last
stands of this tree community along the Colorado River. The upper gorge area is quite different, where the waters flow
through steep canyons and sheer cliffs. Access to the upper gorge is by way of Lake Alamo Road, off US 60 at Wenden.
Bill Williams NWR
The river and refuge get their name from a mountain man who traveled through
much of Arizona in the 1800's. When he came west from St. Louis, Williams was a missionary to Native Americans.
In his later years he gave up the missionary and became a trapper and traveler. Williams is thought to be buried in
an unmarked grave near Williams, Arizona, but his cause of death and the year he died remain a mystery.
Lake Havasu access site to the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was dedicated in 2003. Ramadas and interpretive trails
welcome visitors. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is active raising two threatened native-Arizona fish species at
the NWR. The razorback sucker and the bonytail chub were once prevalent in the southwest, but are now threatened by
loss of habitat.
Razorback sucker. Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Dexter National Fish hatchery
produces the fish at their plant in New Mexico and provides them to the NWR. They are raised in a cove at the Refuge
until they reach a size of about 10 inches, when they are better able to defend themselves against predators. At that
point they are released into Lake Havasu and other areas, and their status and survival rate monitored over time. As
along other reaches of the Colorado, officials at the NWR are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore the water
flows of the Bill Williams River to a more natural state. Like other NWR's along the Colorado, the list of migratory
birds that pass through the Refuge is extensive. Cottontails, javelina, and deer, as well as predatory coyotes, bobcats,
and the less common mountain lions, can also be found here.
Back on Highway 95, the roadway parallels Lake
Havasu. A few miles north of the bridge over the Bill Williams River, a turnoff leads to Cattail Cove State Park.
The park offers 61 campsites right on the lake. No wood fires are allowed, but charcoal for cooking within a campsite
or on a grill on the beach is permissible. A broad swimming beach and boat launch attract boaters to the campground,
but there are other features. Whyte's Retreat Trail takes you one and a half miles through the shoreline cliffs to the
south. The trail begins on the south side of the boat launch ramp. Overnight camping fees range from $19-$25 for
an electric site, and $10-16 for a cabana or boat site. The entry fee for day use is $9 per vehicle. The phone
number at Park Headquarters is 928-855-1223.
Highway 95 continues northwestward, and we enter the town
of Lake Havasu City.
Downstream River Mileage Chart Parker Dam to Yuma (Arizona Side)
Monkeys Head Wash
Monkeys Head Wash
Buckskin Mountain State Park
Summary Mileage - Parker
Dam to Buckskin Mountain State Park
Buckskin Mountain State Park
Villa County Park
Ah Villa County
Rock Dam Earthfill Section
Summary Mileage - Buckskin Mountain State Park to Headgate Rock Dam
Headgate Rock Dam Earthfill Section
Headgate Rock Dam Spillway
Headgate Rock Dam Spillway
Hwy 62 Bridge
Upper End Deer Island Backwater
Upper End Deer Island Backwater
Lower End Deer Island
Lower End Deer Island
Agnes Wilson Bridge
Agnes Wilson Bridge
End No Name Lake
Upper End No
Lower End No Name Lake
Lower End No Name Lake
Summary Mileage - Headgate Rock Dam to I-10/Ehrenberg
Farmers Toll Road
Farmers Toll Road
Boundary Cibola NWR
Cibola Lake Inlet
Cibola Lake Inlet
Cibola Lake Outlet
Cibola Lake Outlet
Red Cloud/Black Rock Washes
Red Cloud/Black Rock Washes
Clear Lake/Yuma Wash
Clear Lake/Yuma Wash
S. Boundary Imperial NWR
Boundary Imperial NWR
Summary Mileage - I-10/Ehrenberg
to Fisher's Landing
Summary Mileage - I/10/Ehrenberg to Imperial Dam
N. Boundary Mittry Lake Wildlife Area
N. Boundary Mittry Lake Wildlife Area
Boundary Yuma Proving
Boundary Yuma Proving Ground
S. Boundary Mittry Lake Wildlife Area
S. Boundary Mittry Lake Wildlife Area
Mileage - Imperial Dam to Laguna Dam
Yuma Prison (AZ)/St. Thomas Mission (CA)
Mileage - Laguna Dam to Prison/Mission
Total Miles - Parker Dam to Prison/Mission