Does this bridge look familiar to you? Some of you may have seen this very bridge when it was located in a very different place, in a different time. This is the famed London Bridge, which once spanned the Thames River in London and now makes its home in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It now spans the Bridgewater Channel, a canal which runs between the Colorado River and Havasu Lake. The bridge was brought here stone by stone in the late 1960's, after it was discovered that the bridge was sinking at the rate of 1/8th inch per year in the Thames and was several inches higher at one end than the other. The bridge was originally erected in 1831, replacing several other versions dating back to the medieval era. By the early 1960's, it was clear that it could not withstand modern automobile traffic. London officials decided to tear it down and an entrepreneur brought it Arizona. The story is fascinating and you can read more here and here.
We visited Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge on our trip to Arizona. I knew the bridge had been relocated to Arizona somewhere, but didn't know much about it otherwise. We spent the first leg of our trip with the Bear's uncle and aunt in the northwestern part of Arizona, where they live. They suggested a trip to see the bridge and we all went together, two days after Christmas. It was so interesting!
You can drive on local highways to reach the London Bridge, but we went on a boat, the London Jet. The Bear's uncle and aunt generously treated us to tickets for a guided boat tour, which included a two-hour layover in Lake Havasu City, where we ate lunch. To take the boat tour, we had to first drive from Kingman, Arizona, where our relatives live, to Laughlin, Nevada, about an hour away. I'd never been in Nevada before, so that was exciting enough for me. This waterway sort of weaves between Nevada and Arizona, with little bits of California here and there too. Laughlin has a lot of gaming and casinos, and the boat picks up and drops off its passengers on the shore of the Colorado River behind the casinos and hotels. We boarded and disembarked at the Edgewater Casino, where we had left our car, and there are several other stops along the same shore.
The London Jet is owned and operated by this man, Joe, and his wife, Jenny. They travel up and down the river every day offering a guided tour of the area. They pointed out lots of interesting features, such as rock formations and petroglyphs. I was impressed to learn that Joe had built the boat himself, in his garage. The six of us made up the largest group on the boat; there were only about eight other people besides us, so there was plenty of room and the kids had great window seats both ways. The boat ride was close to two hours each way.
Children are required to wear life vests on the boat and these two didn't mind one bit. It only made the trip more exciting for them. This was the first real boat trip either of them had ever taken. They were able to walk around the boat and they switched seats often. The Bear's uncle and aunt enjoyed pointing things out to them. They don't have children of their own, but they're awesome with kids and our two love spending time with them.
One of the most interesting things about the boat ride was the chance to see the luxurious houses and condominiums on the shores of the river. Many of them were huge and beautiful, with private docks and swimming areas. It must be a really nice place to vacation, but it gets very hot there. I'm not sure I'd survive.
The rock formations were fascinating. We were able to stand at the back of the boat once it got up to speed, and from there we had an incredible view of the river and the land on both sides. Joe and Jenny pointed out ancient petroglyphs on some of these formations. I don't have good photos of them, but one in particular caught my eye. It was a tiny drawing of the sun, very simple but instantly recognizable.
You know that scene in Titanic when Rose is getting ready to jump, and Jack is going in after her, and she says he's crazy and he says something like, "With all due respect, ma'am, I'm not the one hanging off the back of a ship"? That scene kept going through my mind when these two took to the deck to look at the scenery. Okay, I was being paranoid, but they made me nervous. Fortunately, that gate opened inward. They loved every second.
Finally, we approached Lake Havasu City, which has numerous resorts and tourist attractions on both sides of the Bridgewater Channel. This photo shows the miniature English village which was built around the same time that the bridge was relocated from London. The other side of the channel is built up with restaurants and shops too.
The fabled old London Bridge surrounded by palm trees! This was the view from our table in the restaurant where we ate lunch. It was a brew-pub kind of place. The Bear and I shared a margherita-style pizza. We only had two hours to explore the bridge and it surroundings, so we didn't linger over lunch for long. The kids were antsy after the long boat ride too. We ate lunch and hit the bridge!
Two squinty Bears on the bridge. You can walk across the bridge in both directions, or you can drive. We walked, obviously, having arrived on a boat. Apparently, there had recently been a car accident on the bridge, where a guy rammed into the side rails. You could see where it was boarded up with wood from the English village side of the river. It seemed a little risky to be walking on the bridge, actually, even though there was a designated footpath. But we made it without incident and it was pretty exciting to be walking across the actual London Bridge!
The English village side of the river was cute. All the buildings were modeled after old-fashioned English buildings, like this vaguely Tudor-style one. The village is quaint but a little run-down. We only went in a few shops; they were the typical boardwalk-type places, selling keychains, shot glasses and t-shirts. There were some food stands open, selling hot chocolate, but most shops and stands were closed for the winter season. We had just enough time to walk around a little, checking out the underside of the bridge and the places where bombs had hit it during World War II. You can actually see the damage on the stones, which is really interesting. The bridge was reassembled here exactly as it was on the Thames. I've really enjoyed thinking about all the history this bridge has seen.
Soon, it was time to meet the London Jet boat for our trip back up the river to Laughlin. We were tired and a little sunburned. There was another long, loud boat ride ahead of us. The small Bears were sleepy and they rested their heads on the adults sometimes, walked around a little and stretched out on the bench seats. There were blankets to wear on the boat and they took advantage. We got off the boat and drove back to Kingman for a late dinner and an early bedtime. We were staying in a motel there for a couple of nights and the small Bears were sharing a bed. They both talked about the boat and the bridge literally until they fell asleep, each drifting off mid-sentence. They had a great time and so did we. I'm so glad we all had the chance to see this historic bridge and its unexpected and beautiful new surroundings in the desert.