Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Colorado River’

Casinos and Ancient Petroglyphs Make an Unusual Combination in Laughlin, Nevada

Colorado Belle CasinoMountains on the river…a spot to relax! On the banks of the beautiful Colorado River at the very southern tip of Nevada sits a lovely little town called Laughlin. Casinos are the main business in town, so many visitors try their luck at the slots or gaming tables. The Colorado Belle Casino, a 600′ replica of a 19th century Mississippi paddle-wheel riverboat, is certain to catch everyone’s attention.  However, gambling isn’t necessary to enjoy a stay in Laughlin.

When Don Laughlin, for whom the town is named, purchased the land in 1964, he opened a small casino, Riverside Resort, which had just twelve slot machines and two gaming tables. On the other side of the river in Arizona, the town of Bullhead City ran shuttle boats to the casinos as the number of them grew in Laughlin. Finally, in 1987 Don Laughlin himself provided the $3.5 million needed to build a bridge to span the river between the towns. Then business really picked up. Today, this little town is a popular gaming destination and family vacation center since it is located on the banks of the river with desert and mountains in view.  The casino strip isn’t very long with ten major casinos, but it has all the glitter of Las Vegas. The actual town of Laughlin is situated on the other side of the mountains, away from the casino activity.

Ramada ExpressA stay at the Ramada Express, now the Tropicana Express, was always a pleasant experience. Express being its name, trains were its theme, having a pool shaped like a locomotive – with a spa in the wheel, and a train that ran around the entire hotel with several stops for less walking. Their patriotic museum honored all veterans from WWII through Desert Storm and regularly showed a four, large screen tribute, “On the Wings of Eagles.”

A stop at the little Colorado River Museum displayed information about the growth of the surrounding area. An evening ride down the Colorado River on the Celebration riverboat became a shimmering experience as the lights of Laughlin casinos reflected off the water. The captain was full of information about the river’s edge and talked a hundred miles an hour.  If riverboats are not to your liking, enjoy the river’s edge on a beautiful boardwalk that is a relaxing stroll day and night.

Debbie Reynolds at RiversideNo stay in a casino town would be complete without heading to at least one show. Debbie Reynolds, a star I admired as a child, was performing at Don Laughlin’s Riverside so decided to see if I could get a ticket.  As luck would have it, they had one seat available, and it was in the front row! Afterwards, I went backstage and got an autograph and picture with Ms Reynolds.

But the Laughlin area was more than casinos.  Accessed by a well maintained dirt road, nearby Spirit Mountain took one on a walk into the past. Petroglyphs on the mountain walls and rocks gave a glimpse into the Indian heritage that ePetroglyphs near Laughlinxisted in this area many years ago.  This remote granite mountain gave one a sense of tranquility, perhaps because the ancestors of the Indians reside there to this day.

Only seven miles west of Laughlin in Christmas Tree Pass, visitors will find over 700 petroglyphs. Estimates on the original time of the glyphs have been placed from 1100-1500 AD at a time when the Mojave Indians roamed this area. While their meaning is not positively known, one possibility is that they tell the Mojave story of how the Colorado River came into existence. This is one of those places where a bottle of water and a sunhat are recommended as temperatures in the summer soar to 120 degrees.

Christmas Tree PassA long desert-mountain walk in the Indian petroglyphs concluded this week’s stay in Laughlin.  Never had I seen so many glyphs in one place, especially at the entrance of the Christmas Tree Pass. Farther up the mountainside, you could see what appeared to be the outline of an old Indian village.  Return trip expected for further exploration!

Laughlin, Nevada can be reached from I-40 taking Exit 141 to 95 North, the Needles Highway, for 23 miles. Turn right onto Bruce Woodbury Drive and after about 3 miles turn right on Casino Drive. Visitors will be greeted by Riverside Resort and the Casino Strip.

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Explore A Scenic Masterpiece Grand Canyon National Park

If “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then actually being there must be worth a million. Grand Canyon National Park, with the Colorado River’s wildwater rapids, is astounding beyond the imagination so it’s quite understandable for this scenic masterpiece to be listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Located in the Northwestern corner of Arizona, this massive canyon has been carved over millions upon millions of years. Once this was home to ancient civilizations and in more recent time home to Native American Indian tribes. Still today it is home to five of those tribes: Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, and Paiute.

Hopi legend says that ancestors once lived in caves and tunnels in the Grand Canyon.  This could actually be true! Not far near Peach Springs, Arizona on Route 66 are the Grand Canyon Caverns, 800 acres  of caves and tunnels underground, forming the largest dry caverns in the United States. Entrance today is through an elevator, which descends approximately twenty stories into the earth.  Perhaps the Hopi had a secret entrance.

The air here is pure and dry coming through about ten miles of limestone crevices from the Grand Canyon itself.  When taking a tour there, the guide mentioned that these caverns were designated as a nuclear fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Some supplies still remained at that time…just in case. Sometimes my mind wonders if the whole inner earth looks like Swiss cheese.

Although larger than the mind can comprehend, this is a tranquil place filled with rare plant and animal life. Some of the elk here weigh as much as a thousand pounds so there is frequent warning: Never Approach Wild Animals.

One popular scenic view arises at Pima Point.  From this point, people say they can hear the Colorado River splashing as it echos off the canyon walls about a mile below.

There are many ways to see the canyon for the adventurous.  One is to descend the narrow ledges of the canyon on mule back.  Since the mule is considered to be the most surefooted of animals, many feel this is a safe way for exploration.  Others prefer wild water rafting down the beautiful Colorado River, which is partially responsible for the appearance of the Grand Canyon today.

Geologist John Wesley Powell led the first recorded expedition down the Colorado River the full length of the canyon starting at Green River, Wyoming. This Civil War hero, who lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh, filled diaries recapturing his astounding experiences on that 1869 three month expedition.  Here is an excerpt from Powell’s Canyons of the Colorado, a book written after his river trip:

“The walls now are more than a mile in height … A thousand feet of this is up through granite crags; then steep slopes … rise one above the other to the summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above, with crags … on the walls, which, cut in many places by side canyons, seem to be a vast wilderness of rocks.

That is quite a trip as the canyon is 277 miles in length.  Variations in width make it even more unusual as it is only 600 yards wide at Marble Canyon, while at its widest, it is eighteen miles. The river moves quickly and has lots of rocks along the way so a trip down these rapids is a challenge.  The average depth of the Colorado River is about forty feet so a good idea to wear a lifejacket.

A great place to get an overlook of the canyon is from the Yavapai Observation Station, first located here in 1928. The view of the buttes and spires from this point is picture postcard perfect. What a great place to study the history and changes of the Grand Canyon.  Designed to blend in with the environment, the station was originally built of Ponderosa pine and Kaibab limestone. Here inquiring minds are told the complicated geological story of the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Every view is different at each time of the day. Sunlight as well as moonlight bring various sections to life.  During the busiest season, April – September, private vehicles are not now permitted along the popular West Rim section. Beautiful Maricopa Point on the West Rim is another favorite picture stop.  Also seen in the distance is the Orphan Lode Mine where copper and uranium were extracted during the 1950’s and 60’s.  October seems to be the perfect time to view the canyon at your leisure in your own vehicle. Then it is a tranquil place where you forget about the cares of the world and just relax in the arms of Mother Nature.  While driving some friends through the canyon on my last visit, the tranquility even captured a busy businessman, who never stops all day long. The only sound from the back seat of my car was zzz-zzz-zzz.

Grand Canyon National Park can be easily reached from I-40 exiting at either Williams – Route 64  or Flagstaff – Route 180. Both routes take over an hour to arrive at the South Rim. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of bottled water to enjoy a relaxing day.

Under the Arches in Utah

Arches National Park is unique at every turn.  No matter how many times you drive or walk through this giant rock collection, you usually notice something different. Located near Moab, in Southeastern Utah, this beautiful red rock country is overflowing with unusual rock formations. This is called the High Desert as it is located between 4,000 and 5,600 feet above sea level and receives very little precipitation.

There are 36 miles of paved road going through Arches National Park, and you can see many of the formations at a distance.  But there seems to be a desire within to take a hike, and actually touch some of these famous landmarks. Over the years many arches have collapsed due to erosion of wind and water, but there is still a plentiful feast for your eyes here.

Delicate Arch was used in 1996 as a symbol in Utah’s centennial celebration and is the park’s most famous feature.  While it is a beautiful tribute to the National Park, it is not easily accessible. The opening close up view is spectacular, but you can see from the arrow in this photo how high and far it actually is located from the main road. Spring and Fall are definitely the coolest times to take the hike for an up close and personal view of Delicate Arch. You really can’t appreciate its beauty from afar.

The Windows is another popular photo spot.  Here you can see how vast the opening really is when compared to the size of the visitors.  At a double arch in The Windows area, filming of the beginning of  “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” took place back in 1988.

With all this rock, it might seem animals would be few and far between. However, there are many nocturnal creatures living in this desert region, including many different varieties of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Perhaps there are some snakes and rats left over from Indiana Jones!  Water is their biggest problem, and while the Colorado River runs on the park’s southern boundary, it is too far away for most of these creatures.  So they have developed various ways to adapt.

This group of rocks got its name, Garden of Eden, because early park visitors let their imaginations loose and  thought the rocks resembled Adam and Eve, holding the tempting apple.  There is even a small ten foot Serpentine Arch here to complete the Garden of Eden scenario.  This Estrada sandstone gives a special color to the area.  The view frequently changes as the sun moves in the sky casting shadows and glows in different directions.

With over 2000  natural sandstone arches and unusual rock formations, Arches National Park  gives you a new appreciation of the beauties of nature.  You’ll find nothing man-made here.   “Only God can make a tree”…or a beautiful rock formation!

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