National Geographic : 1973 Oct
One who did remember the floods was a 92-year-old woman I met in Yuma, where the notorious former Territorial Prison walls a dusty hilltop above the river. Clarissa Win sor was a pioneer farmwife and first curator of the prison museum. She told me of wrap ping her babies in wet sheets, in the days be fore air conditioning, to help them survive summer's oven heat. And she experienced floods enough for two lifetimes, floods that ruined wells, homes, and crops. "In 19161 watched a rooster on a crate float right down Main Street," she said. Today, pro tected by Colorado dams and Painted Rock Dam on the tributary Gila, that street has be come an inviting pedestrian mall of mosaic tiles, fountains, palms, and stores. Near Parker I talked with Bill Alcaida, a leader of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation and a successful farmer. Mutual admiration for the exquisite baskets once woven by the Chemehuevis-Bill's people put us on a first-name basis as he showed me several beauties from the reservation museum. Bill took me past fields spangled white with cotton bolls, past a cemetery where Christian crosses coexist with a Mohave tribal cry house for mourners, to an undulating stretch of brushy sand. There he quickly searched out a few shards of ancient pottery and a bit of crumbly cordage. "For centuries the river tribes came in here after the spring floods and planted small crops," Bill said. Floodplain farming, like the ancient Egyp tians did along the Nile, I thought. But those same floods limited how much land they could use and how long they could stay. Sooner London Bridge is up again. The historic struc ture, which spanned the Thames forsome 140 years, now leaps an arm of Lake Havasu on the Colorado. Built in 1831, the bridge eventually proved unequal to increasingly heavy traf fic. Offered for sale, it brought $2,460,000 from developers of Lake Hava su City. Stone by num bered stone, the granite span was disassembled for shipment across the Atlan tic and took form again in 1969-71, at an added cost of $5,600,000. Other bits of England for sightseers: a London phone booth, a cluster of half-timbered shops beneath the bridge, and a pub serving beef and ale. Even though such new communities are carefully and tastefully planned, the demand for water created by Lake Havasu City's ultimate 70,000 residents will add to the region's already-critical shortage.