The Beaver Dam Lodge in Littlefield, Ariz., was all of this and more to not only movie stars such as Clark Gable and John Wayne who used the lodge as a temporary haven, but also for the locals who converged for all of the above reasons, in addition to seeking employment and shaded seclusion.
In its long history, the Lodge has weathered economic downturns as well as flooding in the near by Beaver Dam Wash and Virgin River.
The Beaver Dam Lodge is situated in an oasis surrounded by the Mohave Desert and is within easy access of Interstate 15 – 28 miles south of St. George, Utah, and 8 miles northeast of Mesquite, Nev. The resort consists of an 18-room lodge, 9-hole par 3 golf course, restaurant and bar, according to the Lodge’s website. In addition, there is also a combination professional golf shop and gift shop situated on 120 acres.
Following a major flood in the Beaver Dam Wash and Virgin River in January 2005, the lodge was closed. It was shortly after that natural disaster that Michael and Lori Black and their 10 children purchased the Lodge property from George and Sherry Hamilton and a “Mr. Wheeler” from Utah, according to Lori Black in an Oct. 16 interview at the lodge.
Michael and Lori Black, along with Michael’s brothers Jim, Gary and Randy Black built the Virgin River Hotel and Casino and they bought the Casablanca Hotel and Casino, the Mesquite Star Hotel and Casino and the Oasis Hotel and Casino, all located in nearby Mesquite, Nev.
Lori said her husband had come out to the Littlefield/Beaver Dam area because “he’s an outdoor guy, especially in the desert” and he liked this oasis.
“We purchased this lodge and what was left of the 18-hole golf course taken out by the Beaver Dam flood,” she said.
For a year after the Black family purchased the lodge, Lori Black said her husband kept trying to get her to come out and see the place from their home in Las Vegas.
“Once I came out here, I fell in love with it,” Lori Black said.
For the next four years, the Michael and Lori Black family used the Lodge property as a family ranch getaway from their home in Las Vegas. Often, they would come there on holidays to ride motorcycles and horses and enjoy the lodge property on the back side of the golf course with their children and three grandchildren.
“Can you imagine having all those (Lodge) rooms for extended family and friends?” she asked. “It was a party place. We had a lot of fun.”
Then she said her husband got this whim to re-open the Lodge. He and a friend, Ralph Peterson and Michael’s daughter, Annie Black re-opened the Beaver Dam Lodge in June of 2010. Ralph Peterson and his wife, Melissa, were going to manage the lodge, but when Ralph developed heart problems, that is when Michael Black asked his wife, Lori, to come and help get the Lodge operations started. So while Lori had been a stay-at-home mother for 30 years, she has been happy with her decision to help run the Lodge operations.
Since its re-opening, the Lodge has had a good response from the public, Lori Black said, noting that it is within easy access of St. George, Utah and Mesquite, Nev., both located along the Interstate 15 corridor on either side of Littlefield, Ariz.
One of the advantages offered by the Lodge is that its restaurant, unlike restaurants in Utah, make it so “you don’t have to purchase (a full menu of) food, you can just buy a beer and a burger,” she said.
The Lodge also offers Arizona lottery tickets and it brings in a steady flow of customers.
“It’s neat when they come in and you learn about their lives,” she said.
In addition, golf leagues have been in existence for the past three years which have helped keep the golf course busy.
As for the Lodge rooms, in March 2010, 39 room nights were rented. By March 2012 that number increased to 189 room nights “so it’s getting better and better,” Lori Black said.
She admits that getting people here to this rural community is a challenge, but once they are here, they come back often “because there is no place like this,” she said. “Our staff goes out of their way to greet people and make them feel at home.”
The Lodge is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., although hours change during the winter time.
Helping with Lodge operations is their son, Michael Black Jr., with the Arizona Lottery, daughter Lindsay Black helps with the restaurant, golf pro shop, Arizona Lottery and office; daughter Leslie Black works in the office and does bookkeeping; son Jett Black works in the Sun Resorts RV Park and Vacations Villas in Mesquite, Nev.; and daughter Jamie Black also works in the office.
All of their children and boyfriends Jeremy Payton and Nick Welnitz always help when they are needed for parties, special events or have a family fix-up Beaver Dam Lodge weekends. The manager, Aryiana Smith, is a great addition to the Beaver Dam Lodge, Lori Black said, noting that Smith takes over the entire resort when the family needs time off.
The Lodge operators also offer weddings, receptions, parties and Christmas parties, as well as golf groups. Gene Brown and Bob Hansen of Beaver Dam, Ariz., have started golf leagues and worked hard to keep them going, Lori Black said. They have started mixed league on Tuesdays and a men’s league on Fridays.
“Gene has played the course hundreds of times,” she said. “He never misses a day even when he’s sick. The group they have coming is a lot of fun and are all great people. So, if you have time you should join their group.”
Beginning Nov. 1, the restaurant will offer a menu that includes chicken wings, chicken fingers, cold sandwiches, pizza, and patty melts. Every Saturday night, the restaurant will offer a different dinner special. During winter months, live entertainment is also provided.
Lori is most proud about the history of the Beaver Dam Lodge. Movie stars who stayed here at one time or another in the 1930s through the 1950s and possibly later, have included Clark Gable, John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Jane Russell, Jane Mansfield, Tyrone Powers, Jack Benny and Errol Flynn, among others.
In an interview I conducted with Lorna Reber in June of 1980, and later published in the Thursday, June 12, 1980 edition of the Lake Mead Monitor then based in Logandale, Nev., Reber was at the time serving as the Littlefield postmaster, and remembers cooking in the Beaver Dam Lodge kitchen, then working as a cocktail waitress in the late 1940s.
Originally, she said the lodge was built between 1925 and 1930 by Jockey Hale from St. George, who was working for Western Savings and Loan Company in Salt Lake City. Inside the lodge was built a café with a circular counter, and electric power plant, laundry room and engine room.
In later years, a swimming pool was built and a four room rock house owned by Wright McKnight later served as dressing room for patrons.
Activity near the water’s edge was always exciting and Mrs. Reber says she remembers some people coming from St. George, who got drunk, took off all their clothes and then went skinny-dipping in the pool.
Besides offering a relaxing dip in the pool, the lodge also offered seclusion for both common folk and movie stars.
According to an article in the Color Country Spectrum in St. George, George Snell related his experiences while manager of the Lodge between 1936 and 1941.
“The area was used by the earliest freighters and travelers as a camping place in as much as it was half-way between Salt Lake and Los Angeles, so the lodge was built and operated as a one night stopover between the two cities. During the summer season, we would average 115 percent occupancy, many travelers staying at daytime in our air-conditioned rooms, then driving across the desert at night.”
Snell said several movie stars stopped in including Jack Benny, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and his wife, and Nelson Eddy.
The Spectrum also reported a worker refurnishing the building as saying the lodge was “the playground of the stars.”
“Clark Gable used to come here and Pat O’brien, Wallace Berry and several others. Those people were under a lot of pressure. They liked this place because it was remote. They’d just turn loose here.”
Today, Lori Black says the Beaver Dam Lodge continues to attract people.
“I like this place. I believe in this place,” she says. “It’s warm year round. I believe we will do good.”