Lake Havasu Museum of History: A Bridge to the Past

Take a drive through Lake Havasu City today and it is hard to imagine a time when Jet Skis and speed boats weren’t racing through the wide expanse of blue water, or when Spring breakers and snow birds weren’t making it a prime destination in the desert.

Photo courtesy of Google Earth

The London Bridge was purchased by Robert McCulloch in 1967 for the then royal sum of 2.5 million dollars, disassembled, with each piece carefully labeled, and transported by ships for a journey of 9000-plus miles to what was then a sleepy place along the Colorado River. You know the place.

Interestingly, we wrote the article long before we visited the museum. Although we had made many trips to Lake Havasu City, we never found the chance to drop by the museum when it was open. Never-the-less, we were intrigued enough with the London Bridge to conduct our own research which inspired our article.

Finally on a crisp winter day, with 70 degrees and sunshine, and after the requisite stop at the In-N-Out, we decided to finally check out the museum for ourselves. We were greeted by a friendly docent who was very informative about Lake Havasu City’s past.

The Chemehuevi People are a branch of the Southern Piutes, and have occupied this area for many thousands of years. They’re still here. The tribal headquarters is just across Lake Havasu bearing the same name minus the “city”, on the California side.

Just about 250 feet west of Highway 95, and about a quarter mile north of the 170 year old London Bridge, is the Lake Havasu Museum of History. This is our starting point for a look into a time when this patch of desert was known only by Native Americans who have been here since recorded time.

The Lake Havasu Museum of History takes visitors back to the beginning, and provides them with the history of Lake Havasu City and more. While certainly not the biggest museum around, it is very well appointed.

Mr. McCulloch, of chainsaw and small motor fame, paid another 2.5 million dollars to get it here, where it was reassembled over the span of about 5 years. Most likely, it was the biggest jig saw puzzle in history.

Petroglyphs aren’t found everywhere in the desert. The conditions have to be right. They are usually chipped into the patina (surface) of basalt rocks, ensuring a permanent image. Sadly, many are being destroyed by vandals and taggers.

The Native American displays are worth a visit just on their own. All of the local, and original Native American groups are organized under the collective name Colorado River Indian Tribes, also known as CRIT. These displays are excellent.

Lake Havasu City includes 6,796 nearby mines.

Havasu Gold Seekers Inc. is a non-profit gold seekers club in Lake Havasu City, Arizona with 20 claims & over 3,200 acres of gold bearing claims.

The walls of the museum are a cartophile’s delight. Maps, charts and graphs to keep one amused for hours.

At one time, before the dams that created the lakes, riverboats could travel from the Pacific Ocean, inland beyond Lake Powell.

The Colorado was never the Mississippi River, but it has a history that would make Mark Twain proud.

Lake Havasu is a large reservoir formed by Parker Dam on the Colorado River in 1938 on the border between California and Arizona.

The community first started as an Army Air Corps rest camp, called “Site Six”. during World War II on the shores of Lake Havasu.

Would you have been sold on the deal? In this 1959 advertisement from the Arizona Republic, you could buy 40 acres for $2,000 dollars, in today’s sum more or less a mere $17 thousand. Had you invested back then, your land would now be worth about $4 million dollars.

Lake Havasu City boasts its own Havasu Stitchers Quilt Guild which offers shows, lessons and quilter’s retreats. The quilt above, called “Flowers of Friendship,” was offered in a raffle.

Havasu National Wildlife Refuge provides important habitat for many species, including 318 documented species of birds including the endangered Yuma Clapper Rail and Razorback Sucker (fish).

A handmade diorama depicts early cars driving across the London Bridge.

There is a cozy but comfortable theater to watch videos explaining the history of Lake Havasu City.

Many diverse cacti and wildflowers call Lake Havasu City with its the surrounding shore and desert their home which provides shelter and food for reptiles, arachnids and amphibians.

Lake Havasu City is located at 34°29′24″N 114°18′32″W

    Summer Hours 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (May thru September}
  • Winter Hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (October thru April)

General Public – $7.50
Children Under 12 – Free
Museum Members – Free


When yours truly was 17 years old in 1971, I recall watching the bridge in it’s final stages of construction, from the discomfort of a small kayak while crossing the lake in the middle of August. 110+ degrees, and no motor. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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