Bullhead City, Arizona
An Oasis for Water Lovers & Desert Rats
Bullhead City, located on the east side of the Colorado River in Mohave County, is a playground for water-based recreation including boating, canoeing, fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, tubing, water skiing, and wakeboarding.
This 59 square-mile city is directly across the river from Laughlin, NV, a gambler’s mini paradise.
Brief History of Bullhead City
The earliest inhabitants of the Colorado River Valley were the Mojave people. The rich soil and plentiful water provided the valley’s natives with the necessities to create a prosperous farming community. According to Mojave legend, life began on Spirit Mountain, the highest peak visible from the Bullhead City area.
The first account of European contact was with Spanish explorer Melchor Díaz. He documented his travels in Northwestern Mohave County in 1540. He met a large population of natives who referred to themselves as the Pipa Aha Macav, meaning “People by the River.” From “Aha Macav” came the shortened name “Mojave” (also spelled “Mohave”).
Father Francisco Garces crossed the Colorado River in the Bullhead City area in 1774.
In March 1864 the current site of Bullhead City was the location of the settlement, Hardyville. It was named for early resident and politician, William Harrison Hardy. From 1864 to 1883, steamboats made regular trips up the Colorado River from Port Isabel, Sonora. The railroad from Yuma to Hardyville allowed regular supply deliveries to the surrounding mines and those to the east in the interior of Arizona.
Decades later came the construction of Bullhead Dam (now Davis Dam), named after “Bull’s Head Rock.” Between 1942 and 1953, the community that arose during the construction of Bullhead Dam was nicknamed Bullhead. Bullhead City became the headquarters for the construction project, which was completed in 1953. Hardyville was renamed Bullhead City.
Hardyville Pioneer Cemetery, a small cemetery, now a historic landmark, is the most significant existing remnant of Hardyville. There is an unofficial historical marker for the town is in the parking lot across Highway 95 from the cemetery.
Today Bullhead City is home to an international airport, two full-service hospitals, and a community college. It is a thriving winter visitor community and offers many activities for people of all ages.
Bullhead City boasts a desert climate. Summer temperatures frequently exceed 100 °F in July and August. Winters are mild with temperatures between 65–75 °F degrees in January and February. Heatwaves involving temperatures reaching over 120 °F are not unusual. Like other desert climates, the temperatures can dip at night. Be sure to bring clothes you can layer. Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen are a must.
There are a few motels and hotels in Bullhead City. Nearby Lake Havasu, Laughlin, and Needles have more choices. There are many more options for campgrounds and RV parks.
Things to Do & See
Ken Fovargue Park features lighted basketball courts, a bike trail, ball fields, a playground, and a public swimming pool with a water slide. Rotary Park, the largest city park, covers 300 acres of riverfront land. It features maintained beaches with ramadas and barbecues, a large skate park, fishing jetty, fish cleaning station, boat launching ramps, a dog park, a disc golf course, and a completely lighted sports complex that hosts regional tournaments and local competitions.
Golfing is a year-round activity. The courses offer stunning desert, lake, or mountain views.
There are nearly a dozen motorized and non-motorized watercraft launches. Bullhead City offers a choice between the fast-flowing Colorado River and the warm, smooth waters of Lake Mohave. Nearby Lake Havasu City has 60 miles of navigable waterways to explore, including Copper Canyon; Havasu and Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuges; and picturesque Topock Gorge.
Enjoy a leisurely cruise aboard one of several Colorado River tour boats. You can also rent a patio boat, houseboat, powerboat, canoe, or kayak and chart your own course.
Fishing is popular all year long. Anglers can haul in black bass (large & small-mouth), striper, panfish, and catfish. There are three free fishing piers in the area, two in Lake Havasu City that are open 24 hours and one in Bullhead City open from sunrise to 11:00 p.m. A valid fishing license is required for anglers 14 years of age and older. Get your fishing license at www.az.gov/app/huntfish.
A freshwater spring flows out of Grapevine Canyon’s floor in non-drought years. This desert spring provides life-giving water to a wide assortment of plants and animals.
Evidence of the Prehistoric Natives who lived in this area can be found by following the trail from the parking area to the mouth of the canyon, an easy ¼ mile walk. Rock drawings, known as petroglyphs, are etched on the large boulders at the entrance to the canyon. They are believed to have been created by these early people.
There are miles of BLM off-road trails including Secret Pass in the Black Mountains. Its stark beauty and a watering hole give you a taste of this part of the world from centuries ago. Take this trip in the winter or spring when the water is trickling through.
The Colorado River Museum includes replicas of area landmarks, Native American artifacts, and displays of historical items, from early settlers to the first slot machines. It is open from September through May.
- In the 1980s the city’s airport was home to the helicopters featured on the TV show Airwolf.
- Early resident and politician, William Harrison Hardy raised Angora goats.
- Chris McCandless of Into the Wild fame spent two months working at McDonald’s in Bullhead City.
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