Day 1: Fort Mojave to Piute Wash
Spending the winter on the outskirts of Fort Mojave, all I had to do to get started was pack up and ride out. I was up at 0230, raring to go, and en route by 9.
I decided to make the old fort site on the river a part of the trip, and followed the remains of another old wagon road northwest, until I lost it in the new suburban development along AZ 95. The Mojave Road climbs diagonally up that slope ahead, up 2100 feet out of the valley and over the ridge between the Dead Mountains on the left and the Newberry Mountains on the right.
Fort Mojave was established in 1859 on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River , to keep the Beale's Road-Mojave Road desert route to the West Coast open in spite of roving predatory bands of Pai-Utes and occasional friction with the local Aha Macav (Mojave). At that time, this entire area was considered a dangerous wasteland, to be left in the dust without delay.
The troops were called east to the Civil War in 1861. In 1863, California volunteers for the Union were stationed at the fort, and naturally prospected the mountains paralleling the river.
One local prospector, John Moss (far left), made a $250,000 strike in 1863 that set him up for life - a short life.
After the war, U.S. troops took over and the volunteers left, called to new diggings in easier country.
The fort was turned over to the Interior Department in 1890, and became a white man's "Indian School" until the early '30s. It was all demolished in 1941-42. There's nothing left at the site now but rubble and the remains of a cemetery, but it's still a pretty spot overlooking the river.
I wasn't expecting the old Mojave Road ferry anytime soon, so rode off the bluff and followed the dike road south a couple of miles to the Avi bridge. I was given a good omen right away - a beautiful diamondback:
Across the bridge, I hit the Avi's mini-mart - last chance for 120 miles - and then christened "Back Road Betsy" on their beach. From there it was back upriver a couple of miles, to Road Mile 0 across from the fort.
The route zigs west across the riverbottom farmland. Make a left at the parkway, and a right between farm fields and mesquite brush, then climb the bluff to Needles Highway. Cross, and start up the wash, keeping an eye out for the rock cairns that mark the route.
This area close to the river is a popular playground for dirt bikes and ATVs. The trail surface was pretty chewed up, but the grade is easy - it was laid out for draft animals pulling heavy freight wagons. I rode the good sections, and pushed through the slop.
It was hot work, and I was glad to take a break in a shady wash. A female chuckwalla found my camera irresistable.
Male chucks can contact me for her exact location.
While I was loafing, a heavy Hummer H3 went by, fully outfitted, and tamped the trail down like a steamroller. I got back en route and rode his track all the way to the summit.
Up near the summit there's a fork in the road. Looking back east into the valley, the left went north to Hardyville, a settlement located where the Bullhead City Safeway is now. The road east out of Hardyville had far easier grades than the old Beale's Road out of Fort Mojave.
Hardyville lasted from 1864 to 1883, when the railroad made freight wagons on desert roads obsolete here..
The road downhill from the summit is in good fast condition, except for a couple of sand traps near US 95. It continues in good shape across the Piute Valley.