Mountains 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.
A 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.
No 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 existed 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.
A 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.