Needles sits on the banks of the Colorado River in the Mojave Valley, an oasis in the Mojave Desert. Using irrigation water from the river, the valley is checkered with farms. Trees grow along the river banks and the roads. In Needles, resorts line the river. Beyond the reach of irrigation water, creosote and other desert plants sparsely cover the gravelly terrain, with mountains of brown-colored rock rising moderately above the desert.
Historic Route 66 passes through Needles, a narrow four-lane street that makes several turns. Side streets take off at right angles to the highway, resulting in multiple grids of city blocks with don't line up with each other. Interstate 40 and the railroad also pass through the town. Motels old and new and other tourist-related business line the highway. U.S. Highway 95 also passes through Needles. It approaches from the south, joins the freeway, and heads towards the northwest.
Needles was founded in 1883 when the site was selected for building a railroad bridge over the Colorado River. It was named after the sharp peaks at the south end of the valley, which, in turn, were named by Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple in 1854 during his survey for the railroad. The building of dams and the dredging of the river in the 1950s and 60s eliminated the floods which once filled the valley every spring, opening the way for agriculture. It also fostered recreation in the clear river water.
The population of Needles, as of 2000, is 4,830. The elevation is just 488 feet.
Needles is a name that has been applied to many places in the west. UntraveledRoad also includes a tour of the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. Another feature called Needles is located in Grand County, Utah.