Bisected by a dramatic stretch of the Colorado River, home to the longest unbroken section of old Route 66, and anchored at opposite ends by the plucky gaming town of Laughlin and the water-sports recreation hub of Lake Havasu City, northwestern Arizona and southeastern Nevada comprise a unique blend of deserts, mountains, and miles of shoreline. This sparsely populated region about midway between
Las Vegas and Phoenix appeals strongly to road-trippers, who appreciate the wide-open roads and scenic byways through frozen-in-time hamlets, and boaters and kayakers enthralled with the basaltic canyons and dammed lakes in the Colorado River’s path.
The defining feature of the region is the Colorado River, which affords visitors myriad opportunities to view local wildlife, Jet Ski, fish, and even rent houseboats. Since the late Pleistocene epoch when Paleo-Indians first set foot in the river that was once described as "too thick to drink and too thin to plow," the Colorado has been a blessing and a barrier. Prehistoric traders from the Pacific Coast crossed the river at Willow Beach on their way to trade shells for pelts with the Hopi Indians and other Pueblo tribes farther east. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, entrepreneurs built ferries up and down the river to accommodate the miners drawn to the area by what Cortez called "a disease of the heart for which the only cure is gold." Prosperity followed, particularly for Kingman.
Every spring the snowmelt of the Rocky Mountain watershed of the Colorado River rushed through high basaltic canyons like water through a garden hose and washed away crops and livestock. Harnessing such a powerful river required no ordinary dam. In 1935, notched into the steep and narrow confines of Black Canyon on the border separating Arizona and Nevada, 726-foot-high Hoover Dam took control of the Colorado River and turned its power into electricity and its floodwaters into the largest man-made reservoir in the United States: Lake Mead. In 2010, the similarly dramatic Hoover Dam Bypass (also known as the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) opened just south of the dam, vastly reducing the time it takes for automobiles to cross over the Colorado River.