Davis Camp-The Beginning
On April 26, 1941, the Davis Dam project was authorized under the provisions of the Reclamation Project Act of 1939. The project was named to honor Arthur Powell Davis, Director of Reclamation from 1914 to 1923. The contract for construction of the dam and power house was awarded in June of 1942. As part of the work on the Arizona side, a mess hall and dormitories were constructed, where Davis Camp is today. In 1943, the dam project was put on hold due to World War II. The contract was terminated and a lot of the buildings were removed to assist in the war effort.
After the end of World War II, on September 2, 1945, focus on the Davis Dam project once again began. In April, 1946, Utah Construction was awarded the main contact for the dam’s completion.
It was at the same time the Bureau of Reclamation built the town Davis Camp to allow for housing of Davis Dam workers. Davis Camp consisted of more than 100 homes, a grocery store, gas station, post office, a recreation center with swimming pool, two churches and several service buildings.
With the completion of Davis Dam in 1953, the use of Davis Camp began to diminish and change. Between 1959 and 1960, the BOR began the building removal process. The BOR sold the modular houses, most of the prefabricated homes and some of the permanent ones. The buildings were later moved to provide housing in the communities of Bullhead City and Kingman. In addition to the building removal, five new larger homes were constructed in 1960 and six additional homes were built in 1961, for the Davis Dam employees. At its peak, in 1948, Davis Camp consisted of approximately 100 homes; by 1970, only 32 to 33 houses remained.
In the 1970’s, Davis Camp again witnessed change as many of the Davis Dam employees chose to purchase homes in new neighborhoods along the Colorado River in Bullhead City. The departure of many of the Dam employees resulted in a housing surplus at Davis Camp. To compensate for the housing loss, the BOR rented out the unoccupied homes to people employed in various types of public service. Firemen, highway patrolmen, teachers and National Park Service employees were among those who lived at Davis Camp.
The use of Davis Camp for housing ended in 1982 when the Federal Government declared Davis Camp to be surplus property. As a result, most of the remaining houses were required to be moved. This included several permanent houses which had been constructed in 1946 and seven of the 11 houses were constructed in 1960-1961. The Catholic Church building remained in place, though its church moved to a new facility in Bullhead City.
In 1982, the Mohave County, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service and the Arizona State Parks Board, began the process of turning Davis Camp into a regional park. A $300,000 grant from the Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Committee of Arizona State Parks provided funding for the initial phase of development. Six small garages, formerly associated with the original houses, were located together to form the park’s maintenance yard. The BOR turned control of what was left of the original Davis Camp town to Mohave County to be operated by Mohave County Parks. Davis Camp Park opened to the public in 1983.
In the mid-1980’s Davis Camp’s existing RV Park area was installed. At the same time, one of the 1960-61 era homes was moved to a new entrance to the park. This home became the current Ranger Station which is still operating today. In 1988, two of the original 1946 houses were renovated and offered as rentals for park guests. The additional eight houses were renovated in subsequent years.
In the late 1980’s, restroom shower buildings, a boat launch, ramadas, a concession stand and a parking area were added. The most recent addition was the park amphitheater in 2010, located at the south beach area.
Beginning of a Park
The process of Davis Camp becoming a park started in 1982 when the Bureau of Reclamation, together with National Park Service and the Arizona State Parks Board, commenced turning control of Davis Camp over to Mohave County. Davis Camp Park opened to the public as a County Regional Park in 1983.
In 1983, the first phase of development consisted of an RV park which has become very popular with tourists who frequent the area. Some of the houses that were left were converted for use as vacation cottages or staff housing. These too are popular destination spots and must be reserved in advance. Beach camping was developed to provide shower and restroom facilities in addition to shade ramadas, barbeque grills, tables, playgrounds and other amenities. A fishing pier has been created for handicap use. Swimming beaches were developed and are maintained to protect swimmers from the boat traffic on the river. Boat launches were installed as a response to the tremendous need for support facilities of this type of recreation. Future plans are in the works to offer nature trails to promote hiking, a cultural exhibit of petroglyphs and perhaps even a community hall to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for recreation in this rapidly growing area.
Along with maintaining clean and safe recreational facilities to the public, our staff also provides many valuable services which are appreciated by park visitors. Our maintenance crew is used in the construction of new improvements to the park, office staff provides area information and answer questions from the public, the Superintendents perform security and law enforcement in the park to promote public safety and oversee the smooth operation of this park.
Over the years, special events have been permitted at Davis Camp Park which have consisted of the Formula One Boat Race, Laughlin Harley Run, Annual Bluegrass Festival, Dragon Boat Races, RV Shows and a Food Fest which have brought crowds into the park during cooler seasons when it is traditionally empty. The aforementioned events bolster other holidays such as, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day and utilize areas that would otherwise be dormant. Mohave County Park Staff continue to provide events for Park guests. Additional events of this nature are desired to maximize the utilization of park resources while providing recreation and entertainment to park visitors.
In 1991, the Parks was separated from the County’s general fund and was expected to continue providing its facilities and services through the collection of user fees, permit sales and other forms of commercial activity. All of the revenue collected for these uses stays within the Parks and is directly returned to the public in the form of new development, facilities maintenance and repair, park services, employee wages and associated operation costs (utilities, etc.).
Today, Davis Camp Park is Mohave County’s most popular park. From the busy summer season river activities through the snow bird winter season, Davis Camp is a popular year round park. Davis Camp is home to over well over 200,000 visitors annually.