Photo by David Alley
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Located in one of the nation’s youngest states, Lake Havasu City is one of the state’s youngest cities. It was founded in 1964 and incorporated in 1978.
Robert P. McCulloch, Sr. envisioned the town, built on a hillside overlooking Lake Havasu. The lake was formed in the mid-1930s by the construction of Parker Dam, about 14 miles downstream on the Colorado River. “Havasu” is the term used by the nearby Mohave tribe for ‘blue water’.
McCulloch was a wealthy businessman with many interests. He owned McCulloch Motors, a manufacturing plant that made small engines for, among other things, chainsaws and outboard motors. McCulloch Chainsaws became a very strong brand, but McCulloch was determined to succeed in the outboard motor market, where Evinrude dominated. In the late 1950s, McCulloch purchased 3,500 acres on Pittsburgh Point, a peninsula on the Colorado River previously used by the military as a respite for soldiers during World War II. McCulloch’s plan was to use the point as a base to conduct research and development of the outboards.
Soon after, he learned of a very large tract of land being auctioned, and he purchased about 13,000 acres spanning the hillside across from the point for less than $75 per acre. This huge parcel, the largest single piece of real estate purchased in Arizona at that time, eventually became Lake Havasu City. There was no major highway giving access to the site, and the land was pure desert, given to extremely hot days during summer. Nevertheless, it began attracting new residents almost immediately.
In 1964, McCulloch moved his McCulloch Motors manufacturing plant to Lake Havasu City, in order to provide employment for the fledgling town. He also promoted the settlement aggressively to snowbirds, running ads offering “free flights to paradise” during the cold, snowy winter months in the Midwest. He operated a small fleet of aircraft and, over time, sponsored more than 2,700 flights to the little airstrip on the point. Many of the early settlers lived in little more than camping trailers until their homes were completed.
Without question, people are drawn to Lake Havasu City by the lake and easy access to an abundance of recreation. Almost everyone living in Lake Havasu City seems to hale from another state, mostly California. Maybe it is the surfer culture they brought with them or maybe residents moved to Havasu for a more easy-going lifestyle, but “laid-back” is definitely the best term to describe them. It is not unusual to see a sign reading, “Gone to the Lake. See you tomorrow.” posted on the door of small businesses.
The blessedly mild winters are another top attraction. Many of the homes are winter homes. People migrate annually from snowy climates to spend their days “shoveling sunshine.” The population actually increases by about 30,000 after Christmas, when the bulk of the snowbirds land. By Easter, they are gone again. Their presence is felt throughout the town. The normally lightly traveled streets are a bit more crowded, the restaurants are busier, and the grocery store aisles clog slightly more. Oh, yeah, it is legal to drive ATVs and golf carts on city streets. The snowbirds love those things.
We’ve got discount rates for Lake Havasu Hotels if you’re planning to spend a few days in the Lake Havasu area as part of your Arizona Vacation.
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