Located on the picturesque banks of Lake Havasu, Crazy Horse Campground is more than Lake Havasu City’s oldest RV Park and campground. Located on the island the campground is conveniently located close to shopping, dining and recreational venues including acclaimed golf courses.
As the campground offers lake access as well as beach front sites, it is ideally suited for boating adventures on the Colorado River. And we also offer sites for RVers’ or tent campers as well as deluxe park models complete with microwave and refrigerator.
But what makes Carzy Horse Campground in Lake Havasu City an ideal winter oasis is the diverse array of day trip and adventure opportunities on your doorstep. Less than fifty miles away, via Route 66, Topock and the beautiful Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, is the fascinating old railroad town of Needles, California.
In the historic heart of Needles is the El Garces, an historic depot, hotel and Harvey House. After decades of abandonment this architectural treasure is being given a new lease on life.
The chamber of commerce will soon be relocating its offices to the renovated building. The former dining room is now being rented for special occassions such as wedding receptions, and a conference center has been added. On February 11, 2023 this will be the site of the Route 66 Info Fair Conference.
The historic railroad complex is named for Father Francisco Garces, a Franciscan missionary that traveled through the Colorado River Valley with the DeAnza expedition in 1776. Garces was the first European to follow the Native American trade route across northwestern Arizona that later became the course of the railroad, National Old Trails Road and Route 66.
In 1883 one of the first buildings erected in Needles was the Southern Pacific Railroad depot. It was a simple, single story building of wood frame construction. It was a spartan building that was designed for utility rather to provide a service for passengers. After the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad line bought the depot was transformed into a two story hotel and depot complex. In 1898 a Harvey House dining room was added.
This depot was destroyed by fire on September 6, 1906. Its replacement, the El Garces built at a cost of $250,000, mirrored the city’s prominence and progressive vision.
It opened in 1908 as one of California’s first modern “combination depots” that included a hotel, Harvey House dining room, and railroad offices. It was also one of the first concrete depots built by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
The stylish complex was designed by architect Francis Wilson. He chose a Classic Revival style that stood in contrast to the Spanish Revival and Mission style depots built in the southwest. In May 1908, Santa Fe Magazine publshed an article about the pride of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad.
“El Garces, the new Santa Fe hotel at Needles, was opened for business on April 3. It was erected at a cost of almost a quarter of a million dollars and is one of the finest station hotels on the Santa Fe. It is constructed of reinforced concrete and is 518 feet long and two stories high, the architecture being colonial. It will be managed by Mr. Riley, who will have almost 150 employees to help him. Mr. Riley is one of the youngest and most popular of the Harvey hotel managers and is fully capable of doing El Garces justice.“
During World War II, the El Garces boomed as Needles was a stop for troop trains crossing the country. And the soda fountain proved to be very popular, especially during the months of summer with its searing heart, for troops being trained in the desert for the invasion of North Africa.
In 1949 the hotel closed. In 1961, the Santa Fe Railroad demolished the east wing. The rest of the building was gutted and remodeled as offices and crew quarters for the railroad.
Tours of the El Garces are offered through the historic society. Inquire at the museum across the shaded plaza.
A day trip to Needles is but one example of the adventures that await guests at Crazy Horse Campgrounds. And it is an example of why we are the best winter oasis you can find. This year escape the snow and ice, and come discover an adventurers paradise.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America