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Before Lake Havasu City was known for its world famous London Bridge, lake, miniature lighthouses and beautiful Bridgewater Channel (commonly known as “The Channel”), its future site was an empty expanse of Arizona desert. Lake Havasu was formed by the construction of the Parker Dam from 1934-1938. The reservoir created nearly 450 miles of shoreline and was filled to its capacity of 211 billion gallons of water in 1940-1942.
City founders C.V. Wood (left) & Robert P. McCulloch (right)
In 1963, Robert McCulloch, owner of McCulloch Motors, was flying over Lake Havasu looking for a place to test his outboard engines. He thought that the land surrounding Lake Havasu had great potential for an emerging city. Lake Havasu City was established on September 30, 1963 by resolution #63-12-1 as the Lake Havasu Irrigation and Drainage District by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, making it a legal entity. McCulloch and developer C.V. Wood joined efforts and founded what would be a thriving community. C.V. Wood had previously designed the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California. After four years, a total of 16,520 acres were acquired and prepared for lease.
In 1964, the land had only one unimproved road into the city. McCulloch needed a way to get prospective buyers to the new city; so he chose air charter. Between 1964 and 1978, 2,702 flights brought 137,000 potential land buyers to Lake Havasu City in a huge sales push that targeted mainly people from colder climates. In 1978, the last parcel of land was sold, and the city was incorporated later that year. By 1981, Lake Havasu City boasted a population of 17,000. In subsequent years, the city experienced population growth at a steady flow of about 1,000 people annually. Most came in search of refuge from big cities, and to enjoy Lake Havasu City’s beautiful weather and laid-back lifestyle.
Lake Havasu City’s claim to fame is the London Bridge. The bridge was built as a conventional structure clad with the original granite to retain its antique look. The bridge was reconstructed on a dry piece of land. The land was then dredged from underneath the bridge, creating Bridgewater Channel and “The Island” across the bridge. On October 10, 1971, the completed bridge was formally dedicated in a ceremony attended by over 50,000 American and British spectators and dignitaries.
Over fifty years after Robert McCulloch’s initial visit, Lake Havasu City (elevation 735 feet) is now home to over 52,000 people and a thriving tourism industry that attracts over 775,000 visitors annually. The community regularly hosts well-known events such as Desert Storm, a world famous boat racing competition, the IJSBA (World Jet Ski Finals), the “Relics and Rods”, a classic car show, the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival & Fair, Winter Blast Western Pyrotechnics Show, and other exciting events throughout the year.
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