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Needles, California

Needles, California
Charter city[1]
City sign
City sign
Location in San Bernardino County and the state of California
Location in San Bernardino County and the state of California
Needles, California is located in USA
Needles, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: [2]
Country  United States of America
State  California
County San Bernardino
Incorporated October 30, 1913[3]
 • Total 31.275 sq mi (81.002 km2)
 • Land 30.808 sq mi (79.793 km2)
 • Water 0.467 sq mi (1.209 km2)  1.49%
Elevation[2] 495 ft (151 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 4,844
 • Density 150/sq mi (60/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP code 92363
Area codes 442/760
FIPS code 06-50734
GNIS feature IDs 1652757, 2411220
Website .com.cityofneedleswww

Needles (Mojave: ʼAha Kuloh) is a city in San Bernardino County, California, United States. It lies on the western banks of the Colorado River in the Mohave Valley subregion of the Mojave Desert, near the borders of Arizona and Nevada and roughly 110 miles (180 km) from the Las Vegas Strip. The city is accessible via Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 95. The population was 4,844 at the 2010 census, up from 4,830 at the 2000 census.

Needles was named after "The Needles", a group of pinnacles, mountain peaks in the Mohave Mountains on the Arizona side of the river to the south of the city. The large Mohave Native American community shares the nearby Fort Mojave Indian Reservation and the town. Needles is a gateway to the Mojave National Preserve.


  • History 1
  • Climate 2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2000 3.1
    • 2010 3.2
  • Government 4
    • State and federal representation 4.1
    • Politics 4.2
  • Infrastructure 5
    • Transportation 5.1
    • Fire services 5.2
    • Medical services 5.3
  • Education 6
  • Popular culture 7
    • Movies 7.1
    • Books 7.2
    • Print media 7.3
    • Recordings 7.4
    • Television 7.5
    • Other connections 7.6
    • Visits by famous people 7.7
  • Notable people 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


"Ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, intaglios art, and old trails and stonework sites, bear witness to those who came from an earlier time."

- Needles Chamber of Commerce

The Mohave, one of the traditional Native American Colorado River Indian Tribes, are people that have been living in the Mojave Valley area for thousands of years prior to the European exploration of the area. In the Mohave language, they call themselves the ʼAha Makhav. Their name comes from two words: ʼaha, meaning 'river', and makhav, meaning 'along or beside', and to them it means 'people who live along the river'.

The historic Mojave Road now goes through the Mojave National Preserve. Along it, in 1859, Fort Mojave was built to protect new pioneer immigrants to California and other travelers from the Mohave.[5] The city was founded in May 1883 as a result of the construction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway which originally crossed the Colorado River at this point. The name was derived from the Needles, pointed mountain peaks where the wind-blown holes in them (which can only be seen by boat from the Colorado River), at the south end of the valley. This point on the Colorado River was a poor site for such a bridge, lacking firm banks and a solid bottom. Also the bridge was not of the best quality, which was criticized as a "flimsy looking structure," and an obstruction to navigation since it lacked a draw to allow boat traffic. The flooding and meandering of the Colorado River destroyed the bridge in 1884, 1886 and 1888. Finally the railroad surrendered to nature and built a high cantilever bridge at a much narrower point with solid rock footings, ten miles downstream near modern Topock, completing it in May 1890.[6]:82

Originally a tent town for railroad construction crews, the railroad company built a hotel, car sheds, shops and a roundhouse. Within a month the town also boasted a Chinese washhouse, a newsstand, a restaurant, a couple of general stores, and nine or ten saloons. The town became the largest port on the river above Yuma, Arizona.[6]:82 The Railway and the Fred Harvey Company built the elegant Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts style El Garces Hotel and Santa Fe Station in 1908 which was considered the "Crown Jewel" of the entire Fred Harvey chain. The landmark building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is being restored.

Needles was a major stop on the historic U.S. Route 66 highway from the 1920s through the 1960s. For immigrants from the Midwest Dust Bowl in the 1930s it was the first town that marked their arrival in California. The city is lined with motels and other shops from that era. The "Carty's Camp" which appears briefly in The Grapes of Wrath as the Joad family enters California from Arizona is now a ghost tourist court, its remains located behind the 1946-era 66 Motel.

In 1949 the US Bureau of Reclamation began a mass project to dredge a new channel for the Colorado River that would straighten out a river bend that was causing massive silt problems since the Hoover Dam was completed.[7]

Needles is a tourism and recreation center, a tradition going back for decades. The city is the eastern gateway to the Mojave National Preserve, a scenic desert National Park.


Needles, like Death Valley to the northwest, is known for extreme heat during the summer. The city has a subtropical desert climate. Temperatures often reach 120 °F (49 °C) in late July and early August. The Needles weather station is frequently reported by the United States government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the site of the highest daily temperature recorded in the U.S. during the desert summers. Needles occasionally sets national or world daily temperature records.

The mean annual temperature for Needles, CA is 74.2 °F (23.4 °C).[8]

In winter the normal high temperatures range from 62 °F (17 °C) to 80 °F (27 °C) with lows of 40 °F (4 °C) to 60 °F (16 °C). During summer the normal high temperatures range from 106 °F (41 °C) to 122 °F (50 °C) with lows of 82 °F (28 °C) to 94 °F (34 °C). Annual rainfall is about 5.11 inches (130 mm).

On July 22, 2006, Needles experienced a record high low temperature, with a temperature recorded to be 100 °F (38 °C) at 6:00 AM with a high temperature exceeding 120 °F (49 °C).[9]

On August 13, 2012, Needles experienced a thunderstorm that deposited rain at a temperature of 115 °F (46 °C) starting at 3:56 PM, setting a new record for the hottest rain in world history. The air temperature was 118 °F (48 °C), tying Needles' record high for the date. Since the humidity was only 11%, the rain evaporated so that "only a trace of precipitation was recorded in the rain gauge". Weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera reported that this was the lowest humidity at which rain has occurred on Earth in recorded history.[10]

The record low temperature was 20 °F on December 23, 1990. The average year has 168.4 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and 4.9 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower.

There are normally 23 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1965 with 9.50 inches and the driest year was 2006 with 0.70 inches. The most rainfall in one month was 4.72 inches in September 1976. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 2.55 inches on August 28, 1951. Although snowfall is very rare in Needles, 15.2 inches of snow fell in January 1949, including 12.2 inches on January 12, 1949.[8]

The city is also known for moderate to locally severe thunderstorms during the monsoon season as well as humid conditions.

Needles is served by the National Weather Service's NOAA Weather Radio operating on 162.50 MHz from the Las Vegas National Weather Service.

Climate data for Needles, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 85
Average high °F (°C) 65.0
Average low °F (°C) 43.5
Record low °F (°C) 21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.72



As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 4,830 people, 1,940 households, and 1,268 families residing in the city. The estimated population in July 2006: 5,330 (+10.4% change).[15] The population density was 162.3 per square mile (62.6/km²). There were 2,551 housing units at an average density of 85.7 per square mile (33.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.9% White, 1.6% African American, 7.0% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.4% from other races, and 5.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.4% of the population.

There were 1,940 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 16.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.5 and the average family size was 3.0.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.6% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 23.6% from 25 to 44, 25.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,108, and the median income for a family was $33,264. Males had a median income of $39,688 versus $19,483 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,156. About 21.2% of families and 26.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.2% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.

Major employment in the city is supported by the BNSF Railway (formerly the Santa Fe Railroad). The depot has been a terminal (crew change point) for the railway since the late 19th century. The railroad company has been the city's main employment source for over a century.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 30.2 square miles (78 km2). 29.8 square miles (77 km2) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) of it (1.36%) is water.

The once smaller nearby communities of Bullhead City, Arizona, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada have in recent years become larger communities than Needles.

The El Garces Hotel, a Harvey House, undergoing restoration in 2007


The 2010 United States Census[16] reported that Needles had a population of 4,844. The population density was 154.9 people per square mile (59.8/km²). The racial makeup of Needles was 3,669 (75.7%) White (65.4% Non-Hispanic White),[17] 95 (2.0%) African American, 399 (8.2%) Native American, 35 (0.7%) Asian, 9 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 323 (6.7%) from other races, and 314 (6.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,083 persons (22.4%).

The Census reported that 4,839 people (99.9% of the population) lived in households, 5 (0.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 1,918 households, out of which 650 (33.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 712 (37.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 331 (17.3%) had a female householder with no husband present, 159 (8.3%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 186 (9.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 6 (0.3%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 588 households (30.7%) were made up of individuals and 238 (12.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52. There were 1,202 families (62.7% of all households); the average family size was 3.12.

The population was spread out with 1,283 people (26.5%) under the age of 18, 401 people (8.3%) aged 18 to 24, 1,038 people (21.4%) aged 25 to 44, 1,357 people (28.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 765 people (15.8%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.3 years. For every 100 females there were 101.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.

There were 2,895 housing units at an average density of 92.6 per square mile (35.7/km²), of which 1,015 (52.9%) were owner-occupied, and 903 (47.1%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 4.9%; the rental vacancy rate was 17.2%. 2,578 people (53.2% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 2,261 people (46.7%) lived in rental housing units.

According to the 2010 United States Census, Needles had a median household income of $29,613, with 28.8% of the population living below the poverty line.[18]


The City of Needles was incorporated on October 30, 1913.[3] It is a charter city, led by an elected mayor and a city council with six elected members. Mayors serve two-year terms of office, and councilmembers serve four-year terms. The council designates a vice mayor from among its members.[1]

State and federal representation

In the California State Legislature, Needles is in the 16th Senate District, represented by Republican Jean Fuller, and in the 33rd Assembly District, represented by Republican Jay Obernolte.[19]

In the United States House of Representatives, Needles is in California's 8th congressional district, represented by Republican Paul Cook.[20]


The March 9, 2009 voter registration tally for the city is as follows:

  • American Independent: 104
  • Democratic: 907
  • Libertarian: 8
  • Non Partisan: 430
  • Peace and Freedom: 9
  • Republican: 624
  • City Total: 2,082[21]

In 2008, claiming the county had been unwilling to help keep the city's troubled hospital open as a full-service medical facility, the city considered seceding from California and becoming part of neighboring Nevada, only a few miles away. The options of attaching itself to the state of Arizona or even forming a new county were also considered.[22] Proposals to change states would require approval from the United States Congress and both state legislatures.



Interstate 40 is the major highway through Needles, connecting Barstow to the west and Arizona to the east. U.S. Route 95 also enters the city from the east on former Route 66 as a concurrency with I-40, then splits with the Interstate west of the city, and heads north to Nevada. The Colorado River Bridge connects Needles directly with Mohave County, Arizona, and Arizona State Route 95.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides daily service to Needles station, operating its Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles that arrives between midnight to 2am.

Local Transit service to the Needles area is provided by Needles Area Transit.[23]

Fire services

John Lorimer was the first mayor of Needles. John's son Robert Burns Lorimer established the first volunteer fire department.

Needles is served under contract with the San Bernardino County Fire Department.[24] Fire Station 31 serves as the administrative offices for fire protection to the City of Needles and houses three Type I Engine companies and one Water Tender. The station is staffed with one paid officer augmented by limited-term firefighters and paid-call firefighters living in the community.

Medical services

For many years, Needles has been home to a full-service hospital with a 24-hour emergency room.[25]


Needles' elementary schools and Needles High School are part of the Needles Unified School District. The school district is one of the largest in the United States in terms of area with almost 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2) in its boundaries. The district runs from Amboy to Needles, and south to Parker Dam. It has 1,158 students enrolled.[26] The local Needles schools include Katie Hohstadt Elementary School, formerly called 'D' Street School (new home of Needles Head Start, and no longer a regular public school), Vista Colorado Elementary School (Grades K–5), Needles Middle School (Grades 6–8), Needles High School (Grades 9–12), and the Educational Training Center (Grades 9–12). Needles High School, due to its distance from other California schools, is a member of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, along with four other similarly placed California schools: Truckee, North Tahoe, South Tahoe, and Coleville.

Needles also has two private schools: the Needles Assembly of God Christian School and the Needles Seventh-day Adventist School.

Popular culture


Movies using locations in Needles:[27]

In the 1993 film Suture, the town of Needles is a key element of the plot.


Print media

  • In the comic strip Peanuts, whose creator Charles Schulz lived in Needles as a boy, Snoopy's brother Spike lived in the desert outside Needles. He frequently heads to Needles to partake of the town's nightlife, often running afoul of the local coyotes.


  • In 2004, John Lowery (John 5), former guitarist for Marilyn Manson, released his CD Vertigo, in which the first track is entitled "Needles CA."
  • The town is mentioned in the lyrics of Hoyt Axton's "Never Been To Spain"; the song was a hit for Three Dog Night in 1972 and was also performed by Elvis –
Well I never been to England, but I kinda like the Beatles. Well, I headed for Las Vegas, only made it out to Needles. Can you feel it? Must be real. It feels so good!
  • Izzy Stradlin's 1999 album Ride On includes a track entitled "Needles" about his love of visiting the town.


  • In October 2006, two students and two teachers from Needles High School were invited to Washington DC to meet with the Under Secretary of Defense, in which they spoke of the new program at Needles High School called MOCK National Security Workshop. The students were also interviewed for the nationwide, fifteen-minute television news show, Channel One News, where the episode was aired on October 25.
  • Needles was the main site of a 2009 UFO Hunters episode investigating a supposed UFO Crash.
  • Needles High School was on a School Pride television episode November 12, 2010.
  • In the Sex and the City season 6 episode "Out of the Frying Pan", Smith Jerrod and Samantha Jones attend the movie premiere of a Gus Van Sant film called Needles, CA’'.
  • Route 66 (1960) "The Strengthening Angels" TV Episode
  • The Amazing Race (2001) TV Series

Other connections

  • April 10, 1992: 38-year-old comedian Sam Kinison was killed in a head-on car crash outside of Needles. His newlywed wife was critically injured.
Tony Hawk at the opening of the Needles Skate Park on January 3, 2004.
  • In late 2000 to early 2001, skateboard legend Tony Hawk donated $10,000 to the Needles Skate Park, which is still in use today. Hawk was present for the grand opening of the park in January 2004.
  • Needles (and the surrounding area) was the scene for the hit 1986 post-apocalyptic computer RPG Wasteland.
  • Murals paying homage to U.S. 66, the celebrated "Mother Road" which passed through Needles on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles, and painted by local artist Dan Louden, have become a popular tourist attraction.[28]

Visits by famous people

  • January 11, 1960: Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at a forum established by the Needles School District. The school district had established, as a part of their adult education program, a forum that brought in persons from many areas of thought and culture. She dined with Mr. and Mrs. Max Rafferty, Superintendent of the Needles School District. Her hosts during the visit were a Mr. and Mrs. Bender and their children.[29]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b "CITY COUNCIL". City of Needles. Retrieved January 24, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Needles".  
  3. ^ a b "California Cities by Incorporation Date" (Word). California Association of  
  4. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files – Places – California".  
  5. ^ "History of Needles". Needles Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved July 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Richard E. Lingenfelter, Steamboats on the Colorado River, 1852-1916, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1978
  7. ^ "Putting A River In Its Place" Popular Mechanics, July 1949
  8. ^ a b "Needles FAA Airport, California - Climate Summary". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  9. ^ "Needles FAA Airport, California - July 22, 2006 Daily Summary". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  10. ^ Jeff Masters (August 15, 2012). "Hottest rain on record? Rain falls at 115°F in Needles, California". 
  11. ^ WRCC. "Western U.S. Climate Historical Summaries Weather". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  12. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  15. ^ "Needles, California (CA) Detailed Profile - relocation, real estate, travel, jobs, hospitals, schools, crime, news, sex offenders". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  16. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Needles city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ "American Fact Finder".  
  18. ^ 
  19. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 30, 2014. 
  20. ^ "California's 8th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. 
  21. ^ "District Count Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  22. ^ [2] Archived March 6, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "SANBAG: Public Transit". 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  24. ^ "San Bernardino County Fire Department". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  25. ^ "City of Needles". City of Needles. 2002-06-28. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  26. ^ "Needles Unified School District schools, Needles - CA: charter and public schools. Needles school district - Needles CA school district". 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  27. ^ IMDB search results for Needles
  28. ^ "A touch of paint cheers a desert town - Los Angeles Times". 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  29. ^ "My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 14, 1960". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  30. ^ "City of San Bernardino - Mayor's Biography". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  31. ^ "Max Rafferty, 1917–1982, Conservative U. S. Educator and Critic: Bibliography of Writings By and About Him," CORE (Collected Original Resources in Education) , VII, No. 1 (1983), Fiche 9 C1
  32. ^ Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision
  33. ^  
  34. ^ "". 

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • Official website
  • Needles Chamber of Commerce
  • Old A & P pile bridge built just east of Needles by Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1883. Looking west from Arizona side. from Huntington Digital Library, accessed June 30, 2015.
  • Construction of Red Rock Cantilever Bridge nearing completion in 1890. Below Needles. from Huntington Digital Library, accessed June 30, 2015.
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