The blogs at RVLife.com are filled with interesting information on places that you might like to visit. Arline Chandler, who writes the “RV Travel Tales” blog, tours the country several months each year with her husband, Lee Smith, a photographer, and posts a new article each week. Recent topics range from cave tours in Missouri and Kentucky to a jet boat ride in Arizona.
She is just one of several bloggers who share their travel experiences at rvlife.com. Here is one of Arline’s recent posts, which explains why the old London Bridge is now standing in Arizona.
RV Travel Tales: London Bridge: How Did It Get to Arizona’s Desert?
By Arline Chandler
London Bridge is falling down;
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down;
My fair lady.
As a child, I played that singing game, pretending to be a bridge with a friend while others looped under our arched arms until we caught someone on the words: My Fair Lady. I had no image in my mind of London Bridge—or even where it was located. Certainly, I did not know that London Bridge was indeed falling down; sinking into the Thames River an inch every eight years.
Completed in 1831, the east side of the bridge measured three to four inches lower than the west side by 1924. The bridge designed by John Rennie did not withstand 20th century automobile traffic. By 1967, the Common Council of the City of London sought a potential buyer for the stately stone bridge.
When as a young adult I heard news stories about a man buying London Bridge and moving it to Arizona’s desert, I almost laughed. I pictured some fake structure set up as a tourist trap. Little did I know about what was happening on Arizona’s desert. And I knew nothing about Robert P. McCulloch, the man behind this grand scheme.
McCulloch, a chain saw manufacturer from Missouri, had purchased a company that made outboard boat motors. He needed his new product tested, so he arranged a visit to the 45-mile-long reservoir of Lake Havasu in the middle of nowhere. The businessman surveyed his surroundings—the clear blue impounded waters of the Colorado River, the warm temperatures that lured visitors in winter and summer, the stark desert dunes dotted with salt cedar, and the russet-colored mountain peaks rising under a bright blue roof over the whole area. The idea of a new town formed in his mind. He purchased 3,353 acres in Mohave County. After four years of planning, McCulloch Properties acquired another 13,000 acres of federal land in the surrounding area. He hired C.V. Wood, who designed Disneyland and Six Flags over Texas, to lay out Lake Havasu’s unique road system. However, luring potential buyers of lots to an isolated piece of desert under the scorching sun proved challenging. When McCulloch’s realtor suggested that he buy London Bridge and relocate it to his new town, McCulloch deemed the idea as “…crazy!” However in 1968, he placed a winning bid of $2,460,000 on the bridge, arriving at that amount by doubling his estimated cost of dismantling the aging structure and adding $60,000 to it—a thousand dollars for every year of his age when he projected the bridge’s reconstruction would be completed.
Each block on the bridge’s arches was methodically numbered before being disassembled. The blocks were shipped through the Panama Canal to California and then trucked overland from Long Beach to Arizona. The original stones, six to eight inches sliced away, covered a concrete structure built on dry desert land between the main part of Havasu City and Pittsburgh Point, at that time a peninsula jutting into Lake Havasu. Once the reconstructed bridge stood tall over the desert, the Bridgewater Channel Canal was dredged under the bridge and flooded, turning Pittsburg Point into an island. The bridge now spans a navigable shortcut between the Thompson Bay part of Lake Havasu south of Pittsburgh Point, and the remainder of Lake Havasu to the north. The reconstruction took over three years and opened with a dedication in 1971.
After London Bridge in Arizona’s desert became a reality, prospective land buyers came to see the bridge and take a tour of properties for sale. Land sales improved, and houses, condos, hotels, restaurants and businesses lined the new streets of Lake Havasu City. London Bridge is currently Arizona’s second most visited tourist spot, bowing only to the Grand Canyon.
On my first visit to Lake Havasu, I discovered that the famous bridge is no fake. Brick walkways connect the old English Mall, running underneath the bridge at water level. On the south side, strafing scars left by enemy attacks on London during World War II add to the historical significance of the old bridge. The waters of the channel swirl and sparkle in sunlight around the base of its graceful arches. Boats of every description bob in their shadows. Steep steps climb from the mall to the roadway crossing the bridge. Pedestrian walkways on each side offer a pleasant stroll across to shops and restaurants on the island formed when Bridgewater Channel separated the peninsula from the mainland. Cars, trucks, RVs and dune buggies flowing in a continuing parade over the highway supported by the granite-faced archways go unnoticed when gazing at the expanse of Lake Havasu from that vantage point. With all the elegance and majesty of a bridge that once stood in a country of kings and queens, London Bridge is wholly at home—and perfectly preserved—in Arizona’s desert.