Needles is one of the oldest living communities on the Colorado River, rich in history and promise of the future. The fabric of its past is intricately woven of influences of the river, the railroad, Old Trails Highway, the Mojave Indian Tribe, and pre-history, evidence of which abounds from the land. Perhaps most of all it has been influenced by its climate, with long, hot summers offset by short mild and wonderful winters.
Mojave Indians lived in the valley long before white people ever set foot on the land. Descendents of these early people still live here today and are called the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. How long the Mohave were in residence in the area is not known, but the archaeological records indicate that these early people were here thousands of years ago. Ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, intaglios, old trails and stone work sites bear witness to those who came from an earlier time.
The arrival of the railroad at the Colorado River in 1883, actually caused the founding of the town on the backs of the river. The first bridge to cross the Colorado River was built in the area. It was a wooden structure and was eventually replaced by the Red Rock steel cantilever bridge in 1890. The new settlement was named “The Needles,” taken from the sharp peaks at the southern end of the valley.
In the late 1850’s, Lt. Edward F. Beale recommended that a fort be established in the area for protection of travelers from Indians. Fort Mojave was built in 1859 and was soon a route along the old Mojave Road, traveled extensively by the military, emigrants to the gold fields of California and adventurers.
Once the railroad came to the Needles area, it became a regular stop for the Santa Fe. Tragedy struck the railroad station in 1906 when the original wooden railway station and Harvey House burned to the ground causing some loss of life. The station was replaced by a concrete structure, named El Garces, which served as a Harvey House and railway station. The historic site still stands along the railroad tracks in Needles, and reopened in May 2014 after several years of restoration projects. Tours are available on Wednesday of each week. Call the Chamber of Commerce for more information, 760-326-2050.