Lake Havasu City is a relatively recent addition to the Colorado River Valley. Before 1960 there was little more than a rustic fishing camp at the site of a WWII airbase.
But today it is a destination for legions of folk looking to escape the congestion of southern California or a great place to retire with a mild winter climate and endless opportunity for watersports. And for the snowbird fleeing the cold of the north country, Crazy Horse Campground on the “island” in Lake Havasu City is akin to paradise.
But the allure is more than just the lack of snow, the laidback lifestyle, or the picturesque village district with its quaint shops and restaurants nestled around the historic London Bridge. Lake Havasu City is is ideally suited for fascinating day trips or weekend getaways. And the area is rich with history.
Just consider Needless, California and Needles Arizona, which is now known as Topock. Linguists claim that Topock is a corruption of a Mohave word for bridge. The word is rather fitting as Topock’s origins were as a construction camp for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, forerunner to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, during bridge construction in the early 1880s.
But that fledgling community used the named Lieutenant Amiel Whipple had used to describe the nearby mountain peaks during his expeditions in the 1850s, Needles. In 1883 this was the name used on the application for a post office. And so letters mailed from the remote river community received the postmark Needles – Arizona Territory.
For reasons unknown, a ew years later the application was amended and the camp became known as Powell. As the population shifted north to Hardyville near present day Bullhead City, and Fort Mohave, the camp was slowly abandoned and the post office closed.
In 1903, there was a brief boom and a new post office opened under the name Mellon. This was in deference to Jack Mellon, a legendary steamboat captain on the Colorado River. But by 1909, the camp was again nearly abandoned and the post office closed.
There was a reversal in fortune in 1915, and the little camp again came to life. The application for the new office was filed using the camps original name – Needles. The application was rejected because the small city that was developing on the California side of the river was using he same name. But for a brief time while an appeal was reviewed, you could mail a letter from Needles, California or Needles, Arizona.
With notice of the final rejection, the post office operated using the name of a station and siding established by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Topock. The camp thrived as a primary river crossing. Joe and Nellie Bush operated the Nellie T ferry from 1890 to 1914. Completion of the National Old Trails Bridge ended the enterprise.
But the small town survived. First with a few businesses that provided service to travelers on the National Old Trails Road, and then a few more with certification of Route 66 in 1926. In a travel guide to Route 66 published by Jack Rittenhouse in 1946, it was noted that the population was fifty two people. Available services included a gas station, two garages, a cabin camp with store, and a general store.
Aside from the sun baked asphalt of Route 66, and the old railroad bridge built in the 1940s, there is nothing at the picturesque Topock 66 Resort to hint of this long and colorful history. But now, when sipping a beer along the river, you can spark some lively conversation with friends by sharing the story of Needles, Arizona.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America