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
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
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
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.
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
beings like this all
the time and no
one ever assigns
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
these vines, we
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
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.