Back in the mid-1960s, when London Bridge was indeed falling down -- or, more correctly, sinking -- into the Thames River due to heavy car and truck traffic, the British government decided to sell the bridge. Robert McCulloch and his partner paid nearly $2.5 million for the famous bridge; had it shipped 10,000 miles to Long Beach, California; and then trucked it to Lake Havasu City. Reconstruction of the bridge began in 1968, and the grand reopening was held in 1971. Oddly enough, the 900-foot-long bridge was not built over water; it just connected desert to more desert on a peninsula jutting into Lake Havasu. It wasn't until after the bridge was rebuilt that a mile-long channel was dredged through the base of the peninsula, thus creating an island offshore from Lake Havasu City.
Although the bridge that now stands in Arizona is not very old by British standards, the London Bridge has a long history. The first bridge over the Thames River in London was probably a wooden bridge built by the Romans in A.D. 43. In 1176, the first stone bridge over the Thames was built. They just don't build 'em like that one anymore -- it lasted for more than 600 years but was eventually replaced in 1824 by the bridge that now stands in Lake Havasu City.
At the base of the bridge sits English Village, which is done up in proper English style and has a few shops, some casual restaurants, and Lake Havasu's main visitor center. There is also a waterfront promenade, along which you'll find several cruise boats and boat-rental docks.
Unfortunately, the London Bridge is not very impressive as bridges go, and the tacky commercialization of its surroundings makes it something of a letdown for many visitors. On top of that, over the years the jolly Olde England styling that once predominated around here has been supplanted by a Mexican beach-bar aesthetic designed to appeal to partying college students on spring break.
Seeing the Light
Lighthouses may seem as out of place in the desert as the London Bridge, but there are now 19 lighthouses along the shores of Lake Havasu. The lights are replicas of famous navigation beacons from around the country and are roughly one-third the size of the originals. The lighthouses were built by the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club (www.lh-lighthouseclub.org), and several of the lighthouses can be seen in the parks flanking the London Bridge.
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