Laughlin, NV – A Little Known Canyon, Petroglyphs & A Car Museum!

Stewart Point, Lake Mead

Overton Beach, Lake Mead. All the green grass used to be the lake.

Laughlin, Nevada grew out of the desert.

Northern visitors en-route to Arizona gather for cocktail hour

to socialize in the parking lots.


Laughlin brings back

memories of the old Las

Vegas strip.

The Colorado Belle Casino lights up the night sky.

Joe's Crab Shack is a jumping joint along the

Laughlin riverwalk at night.

A family of raccoons stopped

by the restaurant to check for


A skunk joined the raccoons on

the beach.

Opening to Grapevine Canyon.

Petroglyphs fill the rock faces on both sides of the entrance.

Geometric patterns dominate this art that has been

dated to 150-800 years ago.

Big horn sheep -- or other romping herd animals.

Were they trying to tell us about the water in the

canyon, or merely doodling?

Petroglyph. Put here as

part of a religious

ceremony or just a kid's

fantasy pecked out on


Looking back at the entrance to Grapevine Canyon.

Surrounded by grapevines in Grapevine Canyon.

Water-smoothed rock leading to a

balance rock.

Peaking under the balance rock at

the thick grapevine growth.

Cattails in Grapevine


A Cottonwood amid grapevines.

Vegetation grows along the canyon


A time for reflection.

Boats of all kinds offer excursions to Lake Havasu


Fiesta Queen river boat.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

1907 REO Runabout.

The Black Princess ridden 460,000 miles around the

world by Emilio Scotto.

Laughlin, Nevada

Early-Mid October, 2009 - As the wind chased us out of the Valley of Fire,

we took a brief detour to Lake Mead.  When we were here two years

earlier, we were told the lake was 105 feet below normal (three years

before that, in 2004, it had been 85 feet below normal).  We were curious

how the lake level was doing now.  At Stewart Point we found a lovely

beach.  We were tempted to stay for a few days, but the high winds were

expected to continue and this is a very exposed area.

When we got to Overton Beach, we were in for quite a shock.  Back in

2007, the lakefront community and facilities had been closed permanently

just before our visit because the lake level was so low.  When we saw it

then, the boat ramp ended above the lake level, but the lake was still there.

Ducks and seagulls had paddled around the water's edge about 100 feet

below the end of the boat ramp.  Now there was no lake in sight.

As far as the eye could see, for miles in

every direction, what had once been

water was now grass.  What a travesty.

The beautiful, brand new visitors center

was closed; the enormous new boat ramp

that could support dozens of large boats

and trailers lay unused; the vast parking

lots were vacant; the RV park that had

been home to many RVers was


We heard later that all these National

Recreation Area facilities were built just a few years before the whole area was closed due to lack of water.  It was hard to shake

the frustration of seeing such waste, and bewildering to think of how best to fix the problem from here.  The mighty Colorado River,

unhappily harnessed to provide water and recreation for millions, now shows terrible signs of strain.

Downstream, however, Laughlin, Nevada is a

bustling riverside town.  Sitting below the dam, it

receives regular flows of water released from

Lake Mead.  Over the last forty-odd years,

Laughlin has grown out of a desert wasteland.

In high school, Don Laughlin discovered he

made more money from getting friends to play

his slot machine than he did working.  A few slot

machines later, he made more money than his

teachers.  After getting proper casino training in

Las Vegas, he bought a run-down motel on a

dusty road along the Colorado River in 1966.  He introduced his

trusty slot machines to his motel business, and laid the foundation

for a mini Las Vegas, giving the burgeoning town his own name.

We planned to stay just a night or two, but before we knew it 16

days had passed.  When we got there, we were one of just a

handful of RVs in town taking advantage of the free overnight

parking offered by several of the casinos.  Gradually, snowbirds

began arriving from the northern states and Canada and the

parking lots filled up.

These crazy RVers happily set up their camp chairs in the parking

lots and cheerily compared notes on just how cold it was when they

left home a few days earlier.  "Alberta is 100 degrees colder than

here right now," one fellow said brightly.  Knowing that made the

unexpected mid-October 100-degree heat wave in Laughlin a little

more bearable.  Soon the northern freeway floodgates opened, and

the flocks of snowbirds in Laughlin swelled.

Laughlin's casinos line the river front,

and a delightful boardwalk runs the

whole length of the casino strip.  The

evenings were balmy and we lazily

strolled the boardwalk with the other


Laughlin resembles the "old" Las

Vegas strip before its mega-casino

glamor days.  As we walked the

boardwalk towards Joe's Crab Shack

one night, we saw lots of people

hanging over the railing taking photos

of something on the rocks below.

We looked down and saw seven raccoons waddling over the rocks.  Every so often one would stop

and peer up at everyone with a hopeful expression.  Just then a skunk appeared at the other end of

the beach and made his way towards the raccoon family.  I don't think these guys scored any

scraps, but I have a hunch this little

restaurant stop is part of their regular

routine.  None of the ducks or gulls in

the water seemed particularly surprised

to see them.

I had noticed the word "petroglyphs" nearby Laughlin on our atlas and wanted to check

them out.  A few miles west of town there is a short hike into Grapevine Canyon, and this is where the petroglyphs are.  A spring

flows in the back of the canyon, which has allowed some thick vegetation to take route in this otherwise barren landscape.

A deep wash used to run like a river out of the canyon much of the

time, but it has been dry for several years now.  Walking along its

sandy banks towards the mouth of the canyon we discovered the

rocks at the entrance are covered with petroglyphs that have been

dated to 150-800 years ago.  The rocks are is easy to spot and

most images are geometric patterns.

One image showed a group of big horned sheep, or other horned

animals.  Looking closely, it seemed to me that four were original, looking

crisp, uniform, and neatly chiseled.  It seemed to me the one farthest to

the left and the one underneath might have been added later by an

imitator with less skill.

Since the surrounding desert is hopelessly dry and barren, I would

imagine that some of these very congested drawings say something

about the presence of water.

Or is it just


Certainly kids

draw strange

beings like this all

the time and no

one ever assigns

any deep

meaning to it.

The canyon is a nice rock

scramble along coarse

granite.  We crawled up

and over and jumped down

and around.  Then

suddenly we found

ourselves surrounded by

thick vegetation --

grapevines.  As we

followed the

trail through

these vines, we

were shoulder-

high in


The rock in the deepest

parts of the canyon is

very smooth from water

flowing over it.  Most of

the rock is granite rather

than sandstone, so the

smooth stones don't

provide much traction.

There were even some cat tails growing

under a balanced rock.  Just beyond, we

saw a huge, proud cottonwood.

Grapevines clung to its lower branches.

The view leading out of the canyon was

impressive, with dense plant life filling the

base of the canyon.  The indians who once

walked these lands must have been very

grateful for this little patch of cool greenery and water.

Back in town we kept getting drawn back to the pretty boardwalk.

The days kind of melted into one another as we paused to reflect,

saying a last goodbye to our summer adventures while we began

to plan our winter ones.

The river gives this area it's rhythm and its life.  Before the dams, the

river had a mind of its own, rushing and halting as the seasons in

Colorado cycled.  Now, however, the water level in the river is

deliberately raised on weekends so the boaters can have some fun.

Jet skis appeared out of nowhere, flying at top speed towards


Watching the river rise and fall gives it a tidal feeling.  However, we

learned that "units" of water are released on schedule depending on

demands downstream as well as recreational boating demands in

Laughlin.  One morning a boat pilot told us three units were being

released at 8:00 a.m. and another two at 9:00 a.m.  Sure enough, the

current swirled and the water rose, right on schedule.

We aren't gamblers, but we met quite a few.  Legend has it that some

snowbirds are able to pay for their entire winter vacation in Arizona with a

well-played hand in Laughlin in October.

One day we

stopped by the

Riverside Casino

where there is an

ongoing indoor antique car

show.  There are cars of all

types, from muscle cars to hot

rods to funny little buggies built

at the dawn of the auto age.

Most fascinating for me was

the motorcycle ridden around

the world by Emilio Scotto.

Leaving his home in Argentina

in April, 1985, he rode a 1980

Gold Wing 1100 on a journey

around the world through 280

countries covering 460,000

miles.  He left with $300 in his

pocket and returned ten years later to enter the Guinness Book of World

Records.  Not only was he named "King of the Road," but he was included

on an international list of the 40 greatest explorers in human history (along

with Columbus, Magellan and the rest).  His bike, the Black Princess, is on

permanent display in this car show.  Now that's a traveler!!  His experiences

ranged from seeing some of the greatest beauty on this planet to being

imprisoned six times, witnessing a public beheading, being shot at in the

war in Somalia and almost dying of malaria in the Congo.  Hmmm... now that's adventure!

As rare mid-October heat wave baked the area, we sweltered in 100+ degree heat.  We were able to get temporary relief at the

hotel swimming pools around town, but our air conditioner sure gave the little generator a good workout every day.  Finally, the

wind piped up and the heat broke and we headed a little further south to Havasu Springs Resort.