The casino camping town of Laughlin NV came into being in 1964; that’s when Don Laughlin, who owned the 101 Club in Las Vegas, purchased the land at the southern tip of Nevada, across the Colorado River from Bullhead City AZ. Don Laughlin built the Riverside casino and hotel, and built a bridge across the river so the folks from the nearby communities in Arizona, as well as Needles, CA, could easily come gamble at his new casino. By the mid-1980s, Laughlin was a complete and bustling town. It caters not only to Snowbird visitors and gamblers, but to summertime family fun along the river.
For the RV community, Laughlin/Bullhead City is conveniently located along the North/South migration route along Hwy 93/95. It provides a convenient and economical stopover, with full shopping and casino camping opportunities. There’s an Outlet Mall in Laughlin, across from the Riverside Casino, but most of the shopping is across the river. There are two Walmarts, four grocery stores, a Pet Smart, Ross, Target, GNC, computer repair shops. There are many services for the RVer, such as mechanics and repair shops. For instance, R.V. Care Center on Ramar Road is honest and affordable.
But Laughlin is probably best known for it’s “casino camping”, free RV boondocking in the casino parking lots. The Riverside, and The Avi (10 miles south of town, on the Mohave reservation) are probably the best when it comes to free camping in Laughlin. There is a procedure; go to the security desk, and ask for a pass. You will also have to sign up for a free “player card”; the casinos let RVers stay in their parking lots for free, because they count on them to gamble. The player cards keep track of how much you spend. The more you spend, the more likely the casino will extend the amount of time you can stay.
There are also very affordable RV parks in and around Laughlin and Bullhead City. The Riverside has an RV park, and there is a KOA located at the Avi casino, which has a beautiful golf course. Also, Big Bend state park in Laughlin offers full hookup sites. Across the river, there are dozens of affordable RV parks and resorts, from Bullhead City down through the Mohave Valley. Davis Camp county park, pictured below, has an RV park right along the river.
The Laughlin/Bullhead City area is also close to many outdoor activities. It’s a popular area for boating, fishing, you can rent a Jetski, and there are many parks and hiking trails in the area. The Laughlin side is at the southern tip of the Lake Mead recreation area. You can access several parks along the Colorado River, from NV Hwy 163, as well hike or ATV up into the mountains.
The old gold mining “ghost town” of Oatman AZ is about 20 miles up into the mountains to the east, and is famous for the wild burros that roam through town. It was named after Olive Oatman, a young pioneer woman who was captured and traded to the Mohave. She is most famous for the Mohave facial tattoos she received while in captivity.
Today, Oatman is a popular tourist town, and many of the locals still mine for gold in the hills; rather than a burro, today’s prospectors use ATVs and metal detectors.
Please be aware, the road up to Oatman is not RV friendly; take your tow car up into the mountains. There is a 40′ truck limit, but even if your rig is shorter, the roads are very narrow and twisty. It would be OK for a van or a truck camper, but a motorhome, trailer or 5th Wheel is best left at the casino or RV park. Also, many people dream of driving Route 66 in its entirety; Route 66 passes through Oatman, but the stretch of Route 66 between Oatman and Kingman is also not RV friendly. It is very narrow, and has many hairpin turns.
Overall, the Laughlin/Bullhead City area is well worth a stop for any snowbird!