In the far northeast corner of Arizona, bordering on Utah, Nevada, and a bit of California, Mohave County holds about 200,000 Arizonans. The county has long been at the cross roads of transportation routes cutting across the country so the county has grown with the boom of the American West over the past 150 years. Further past the land has known humans along the Colorado River and throughout the area, and the mystery and allure of the desert continue to draw visitors by the millions to enjoy recreation and life in Mohave County.
Mohave County Overview and History
As one of the four original counties created by the Arizona territorial legislature in 1861, Mohave County has been part of the story of the state since the beginning. The county has split into two, regained lost territory, and then divided all the land west of the Colorado River off into Nevada, finally settling on its present boundaries in the northwest corner of Arizona.
Along the way through the years, Mohave County had five different county seats over its wild first twenty years. Although the original county boundary line included what is now the southern tip of Nevada, in 1860 before the railroad came through in 1880 ~ and a piece of a highway spanning the continent from coast to coast came through the county at Kingman, now the county seat for the past century and a half since the wild west has settled into modern America.
Some people give credit to the staunchly conservative voters and independent local culture for the claim that Mohave County is among the lowest taxed counties in Arizona. It is indisputable that the Republican voters trend strong in the area, a strong majority of the county having voted for the Republican presidential candidate over the past 65 years, dating back to Lyndon Johnson in 1964 being the last Democratic challenger to win over the county (ironically running against Arizona native Barry Goldwater).
The Battle for the County Seat
The adventures of Mohave County’s wandering county seat, over the first twenty years of county history is the stuff of legend in the region. The final move of the center of county government came in 1886 under dubious circumstances, with some claiming that the group of Kingman loyalists snuck into the old Mineral Park county administration office at night to grab the county records and transport them to Kingman to set up a new county seat. However the transition came to pass, though, an election verified the result and made the move official, so that Kingman has remained the center of county government ever since.
The county seat had been in Mohave City from 1864 to 1867, when it strayed to Hardyville for five years. County business moved to Cerbat for four years and then to Mineral Park in 1877. Stories report that the publisher of the Mineral Park Record said the city was not supporting the newspaper, amid threats to move to Kingman. When the situation worsened, the publisher took his paper across the county and moved the county seat along as well.
Where the West is Still Wild
Among the wilder areas of Mohave County are the portions of national parks and recreation areas within the area. Along the Colorado River are the lower stretches of the Grand Canyon National Park as well as the Grand Canyon Paashut National Monument further west downstream. Where Boulder (now Hoover) Dam holds back the flow and creates Lake Mead, Mohave County shares part of the shores and borders of the Lake Mead Recreational Area where county residents and visitors enjoy water sports and boating. Further south along the California border the county shares parts of the Mojave Desert.
Hiking and Exploring
Trails and desert ranges are available throughout Mohave County for exploring and sightseeing some spectacular and one of a kind terrain of northwestern Arizona and the greater Grand Canyon area. Near Hoover Dam, below the Lake Mead Recreation area, the Whiterock Canyon Trail passes through a former volcanic area on the way to a side canyon that features hot springs with mineral rich water at constant temperatures of 85 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Bath and soak in warm water that is rich in mineral like chlorides and sulphates. Located about 45 minutes drive northwest of Kingman along Highway 93 to the Lake Mead Recreation Area. The volcanic remains of the area allow water to percolate through groundwater down to fissures in the earth’s crust where it comes in contact with superheated magma and bubbles back up to join the hot pools along the creek.
The Cherum Peak Trail in the Cherum Foothills Recreation Area near Kingman rises up through pinion pine and chapparal growth to gain some 700 feet in the first two miles. Hikers arrive at the ridge with spectacular views of the Black Mountains to the west and the Music Mountains toward the east, and then meet a jeep road in the desert and the trail goes with it for a half mile or so and then ascends to the peak. The last quarter mile of the trail to the summit is not recommended for mountain bikers or horses as the trail is thin in the area. Take Highway 93 about 20 miles north of Kingman to milepost 51 and then follow Big Wash Road northeast for about 13 miles.
One of the most talked about slot canyons in the Colorado River basin is found up the Crack in the Mountain Trail. Visitors who follow the entire five-mile trail enjoy spectacular views of striped rock canyon that narrows at points down to about an arms width as well as regular sightings of the Big Horn sheep that are native to the area. The many small descents along the trail are fairly easy for healthy hikers, and the seven foot descent at one point gives visitors a thrill as they descend it like a playground slide. Follow Highway 95 south to milepost 177 and then McCulloch Boulevard and go right into Sara Park after three-quarters of a mile find the trailhead to begin the trip.
For stunning views of neighboring mountain ranges and wide expansive desert views visit the Aspen Grove Trail, only about 10 miles out of Kingman on County Highway 147 in Hualapai Mountain Park. The trail is open to non-motorized visitors including hikers, mountain bikers and horse travel. The trail was originally developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and continues to be improved by volunteers and park maintenance workers still. Follow County Highway 147 to Hualapai Mountain Park and follow signs to the trail. Optimal season for hiking is in the cooler months of September through June.
Human residents of the Colorado River area trace history back 4000 years and more, with ancestors of the present Kaibab, Fort Mojave, and Hualapai peoples adapting with artless grace to living in the austere desert environment which can be so rich along the shores of waterways cutting through the dry lands. Their people remain on the three reservations located within the boundaries of present Mohave County and throughout the area, bridging modern life and timeless cultures in the area of the Grand Canyon and beyond.
A Split County
Mohave County is two separate pieces of land. The deep gorge of the Colorado River known as the Grand Canyon cracks across the northern portion of the county between borders with Utah and Nevada. North of the canyon is the slim stretch of the county that is accessible to the rest of Mohave County by air or a road trip east or west around the canyon. Called the Arizona Strip, the section connects Utah and Nevada by way of I-15 running from Washington County in Utah to Henderson County [ ? in Nevada. The larger and more populated part of Mohave County is the southern section, home to Kingman, Lake Havasu City, and other cities and towns.
Skywalk the Canyon
Just about 70 miles northwest of Kingman, where Mohave County meets the south rim of the western Grand Canyon, visitors can imagine some of the feelings of a condor soaring over the canyon rim and hovering a thousand feet above the Colorado River below. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a clear walkway that supports curious visitors to walk out beyond the rim and stand above the abyss looking down and all around at the unique perspective of the legendary canyon.
In the area around Mohave County Arizona dozens of ghost towns remain to be explored and photographed by intrepid modern visitors. Tales of lives lost, fortunes discovered and minerals exploited cloak the decaying remains of desert shacks and towns that lie empty now in the second century after miners and pioneers worked to scratch value out of the rough desert hills. Stretches of Highway 40 and US 93/I-11 and side roads hold clues to times past when talk of a rich ore strike drew new settlers and the booms lasted until the vein gave out, or the water spring changed course and went dry, leaving bones of old wooden houses and mining structures to be explored and documented for the twenty-first century and beyond.
The railroad brought new settlers, easier access to materials and goods, and new life to the boom times in the mines and towns along the route. First called the Atlantic and Pacific, later the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line followed the heavily traveled route through northern Arizona and across Mohave County. Where the railroad went, people ventured, and towns like Kingman steadily grew, while mining towns and other settlements grew and shrank, depending on the fortunes of the minerals and water and other resources.
A Big Piece
Mohave County is a big piece of land. It is a county with land area of 13, 401 ~ square miles . Mohave County is so big, it is not only the second biggest county in Arizona, it is the fifth largest county in all of the contiguous United States. A lot of the land area is open land, remote stretches of desert that remain mostly wild, full mostly of yucca, prickly pear, creosote, and mesquite, habitat for mule deer, coyote, fox, small birds and mammals and birds of prey who circle the skies above on the lookout for a meal.
Mohave County has a lot of water frontage, for a desert region especially. With more than one million miles of shoreline along the Colorado River and lakes in the county its total shore distance is greater than any other county in the country. The elevation above sea level ranges dramatically in the county, from 482 feet at the lowest point of the Grand Canyon in northern Mohave County to 8417 feet at the greatest summit of the Hualapai Mountains.
Lake Havasu and the City that Grew Around the Lake
Among the water reclamation projects of the 1930s that helped to bring water to the dry areas and allow further development was the construction of Parker Dam in 1934 through 1938, creating 450 miles of new shoreline in Mohave County and filling with 211 billion gallons of water by 1940 to 1942 when the water filled in to create Lake Havasu. It was some twenty years later in 1963 that the owner of McCulloch Motors was looking for a place to test outboard engines and discovered the area as a potential residential community. With cunning recruitment techniques and some amazing public projects including moving the stone work of a century-old bridge from London to the edge of the lake, Lake Havasu City grew up in the desert to the thriving community it has become today.
Working with a former Disney designer, C.V. Wood, McCulloch bought the old London Bridge from the city of London and used the original stones, carefully marked and shipped across the Atlantic and around to the west coast by way of the Panama Canal, to cover a modern construction of a bridge and recreate the historic structure in the Arizona desert. When completed in 1973, a channel was dredged to the dry land where the bridge stood, and an “island” was connected on the far side of the bridge to the rest of Lake Havasu City.
The city developers flew in residents from cold climates of the northern regions of the United States and showed off the 16,520 acres they intended to develop to some 137,000 potential buyers between 1968 and 1978. Flying the customers in during winter months, the developers showcased the warmth and pleasant surroundings of the burgeoning community, and built the population steadily up over the coming decades to now be the most populous city in Mohave County.
Visitors come by the millions to enjoy the boating and recreation on the Lake, sightsee along the London Bridge and replicas of famous lighthouses along the shore, and enjoy the pleasant year round weather of Lake Havasu.
Mohave County Seat Overview and History – Kingman, Arizona
In 1857 Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale led the experimental Camel Corps on their Western expedition, laying out the wagon route along the 35th parallel through what would become Kingman Arizona. The route became popular, as successive generations improved the path, paved the road, laid railroad track nearby, connected the highway and the railroad east to west, coast to coast across America, setting the new town of Kingman up to observe the history of the coming century passing through.
The US government set up Fort Mojave near the Colorado River to guard against threats from natives in the area as more settlers from the east passed through and established homes in the area. Soldiers off duty explored neighboring hills and found gold, silver, and other minerals in the ground and word spread east and west, drawing adventurous treasure seekers. Fortunes rose and fell with the discovery of nuggets of gold, veins of silver, and stones of turquoise.
Situated among three mountain ranges, the Cerbat, Hualapai, and Black Mountains, Kingman averages about 3300 feet elevation with a temperate climate year round, although warm in the summer months. The city sits alongside the paths of Highway 40 and US 93/Interstate 11.