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Laughlin, Nevada

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Don Laughlin built a bridge linking Laughlin to Bullhead City, Ariz., then gave the bridge to Nevada and Arizona.
  • There is enough concrete in Hoover Dam and its power plant for a 16-foot-wide road from NYC to San Francisco.
  • Lake Mead can accommodate enough water to put all of Pennsylvania under one foot of H2O.
  • Don Laughlin suggested Casino or Riverside as town names, but the postal inspector used Laughlin.
  • The 1,450-mile Colorado River carries off half a million tons of dirt and sediment daily.

Tourism as a raison d’etre

Laughlin is a small place — not even 10,000 full-time residents — but a big tourist destination because that is all it was ever meant to be.

Don Laughlin, on seeing its desolate sandy location at the edge of the Mojave Desert, envisioned a future in tourism. Actually, it wasn’t such an unlikely place for a resort town. Mother Nature and the U.S. government had bestowed assets on the site.

Laughlin was on the banks of the Colorado River, and it could count more than 300 sunny days a year with an average temperature of 75 degrees. And an arm of the Department of the Interior had dammed the Colorado eight miles north, creating Lake Mohave, a very conveniently located recreational area. (It’s Lake Mohave and the Mojave Desert. Don’t ask.)

Anyway, Laughlin in 1966 bought the only remotely promising establishment, a boarded-up motel, plus 6.5 acres of riverfront — and he set to work. Today, visitors have their choice of accommodation types, as well as casinos, entertainment, dining (fine and otherwise), plus on-site or nearby choices for river fun (lazy or very active), desert treks by various modes of transport and hiking the wonders of rugged terrain.

The resort town, in the southern tip of Nevada, is 90 miles south of the glitzier and more expensive Las Vegas. Bullhead City, in Arizona, is just across the river. The two share an airport.

Lake Mohave, behind Davis Dam, is part of the larger Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Colorado River’s Hoover Dam creates Lake Mead 67 miles north of Davis Dam. The entire area is accessible to Laughlin visitors.

There are quite a few dams on the Colorado River. The Parker Dam to the south creates Lake Havasu, and Arizona’s Lake Havasu City, a sometime destination for day trips from Laughlin, sits on that lake’s banks. And, for a site that did not depend on rivers or lakes, Oatman, an authentic gold mining town on Route 66 in Arizona, is another attractive excursion option.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go waterskiing or jet skiing on the Colorado River. Or, choose a kayak trip from the Black Canyon below Hoover Dam to Topock Gorge.
  • Camp at Lake Mohave. Play on the lake by day. Make that scuba diving.
  • Go to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., site of the transplanted London Bridge, aboard a jet boat, cruising at speeds of more than 40 mph.
  • Drive your bike to the springtime Laughlin River Run, an annual and very large motorcycle rally.
  • Carry the camera and hike in Grapevine Canyon, about seven miles west of Laughlin. Look for the petroglyphs that decorate the canyon walls.
  • Take a self-drive, or guided, ATV tour across the desert wilderness surrounding Laughlin.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Rent a houseboat and live for a few days on Lake Mohave.
  • Take a day trip to see the wonder that is Hoover Dam, as well as Lake Mead.
  • Cycle or ride a horse on the trails that border the Colorado River.
  • Take time for the nearby well-preserved former gold mining town, Oatman, on Route 66 in Arizona and surrounded by the Black Mountains. Watch staged gunfights, buy carrots to feed burros roaming the streets and shop.
  • Ride trails, on horseback, following paths in the Black Mountains once used by the U.S. Calvary.
  • Fish the Colorado River’s Topock Gorge for crappie, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, striped bass and trout.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take a dinner cruise on the Colorado River aboard a paddlewheel steamship replica.
  • Shop until the plastic breaks, at the Laughlin Outlet Center.
  • Play golf by day. Try you luck at the casinos by night. Travel between casinos on the Colorado via a water shuttle.
  • Catch one or more shows at the local theaters and lounges. See top-name performers.
  • Visit the Colorado Museum, which was first created for workers building Davis Dam. It is in Bullhead City, Ariz.
  • Swim and picnic, and consider a little boating at Lake Mohave.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Laughlin Visitor Information Center at www.visitlaughlin.com