Some friends recently took a trip to Laughlin, Nevada for a few days. Laughlin and the adjacent town of Bullhead City, Arizona are on the Colorado River where Arizona, Nevada, and California converge. Laughlin earns its living by being a closer, smaller, less expensive version of Las Vegas. It’s a reasonable drive from the population centers of southern California and does a brisk business with retirement age folks. Bullhead City is a quiet retirement/vacation destination that benefits from lower land costs and favorable Arizona tax policies relative to California. Federal and state dams, reservoirs, hydro power stations, and interstate highways make this patch of desert wasteland habitable. If you’re looking for a quiet, sunny, affordable place to settle down and collect your pension with a few casinos down the road this might just be Nirvana.
The primary attraction in Bullhead City, other than nearby Laughlin casinos, is the river. In a desert environment waterfront property sells at a particular premium. In fact, the river is probably the only reason Bullhead City even exists in the first place. So it’s understandable that the development pattern that emerged involved carving the riverfront into hundreds of long narrow lots where each home would have its own private dock. But there are problems with this style of development.