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 California, and then trucked it to Lake Havasu City. Reconstruction 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. At the base of the bridge, English Village 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.
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.
Unfortunately, the London Bridge is not very impressive as bridges go, and the commercialization of its surroundings makes it something of a letdown for some 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. However,in the last dozen years or so, Lake Havasu City has emerged as a vibrant Colorado River community, with a branch of Arizona State University, a good library, coffee shops, restaurants, and all the usual amenities on top of its tourist and party-destination role.
Seeing the Light
Lighthouses may seem as out of place in the desert as the London Bridge, but there are now 25 lighthouses along the shores of Lake Havasu, several of them in the parks flanking London Bridge. These replicas of famous navigation beacons from around the country, one-third the size of the originals, were built by the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club.
Just south of London Bridge on the “mainland” side, you’ll find the large Rotary Community Park, which is connected to the bridge by a paved waterside path. Adjacent to the park, the Lake Havasu Aquatic Center, 100 Park Ave. (tel. 928/453-2687) has an indoor wave pool, 254-foot water slide, and lots of other facilities.
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