Lake Havasu

Arizona

By Mark Corke

With its desert climate, Havasu makes for a perfect winter getaway. Best for fishing, watersports, sailing and Native American history.

Lake Havasu after dark

Lake Havasu became a tourist destination when businessman Robert McCulloch was looking for somewhere to build and test his outboard motors; Havasu seemed like the ideal spot. To bring in visitors, he bought the famous London Bridge, had it transported from England to the site, rebuilt it on Pittsburgh Point, then dredged below it to form what is now Bridgewater Channel.

Lake Havasu City is busy during holidays and just 15 miles from iconic Route 66, now known as I-40. Trailer-boaters launch their boats at one of the many boat ramps in town, which can get backed up during busy times. One way to avoid this is to cross London Bridge and go to Site Six (so named because it was an airfield for an emergency training base back in the 1940s), at the end of Pittsburgh Point. Here you'll find a fishing pier and a free launch ramp that provides direct access to Lake Havasu.

Boating on Lake Havasu in Arizona

Lake Havasu City is roughly the lake's midpoint. Head north from Lake Havasu City and you'll soon come to Blankinship Bend, where the lake makes a sharp right turn, and the beginning of Topock Gorge, a 13-mile stretch through towering cliffs on either side. Be careful here, as there's a big sandbar that can trap those not paying attention. Just past the bend, you'll see the huge Mohave Rock to starboard. Farther north, one can find on the riverbank walls Native American stone carvings created hundreds of years earlier. Note: No waterskiing is allowed from the sandbars at the northern end of Lake Havasu all the way to the Highway 40 bridge.

Lake Havasu Know How

When To Go

Rainfall is light and infrequent, and sunshine prevails year-round, although temperatures often exceed 100 F during the height of summer, dipping to the mid-60s F in winter. Because it's a popular spring-break destination, if you don't like crowds, it's best to avoid a visit at that time of year. Early and late in the year are favorite months for sailors craving the warm breezes that fan the lake.

Lake Havasu Arizona map

Where To Stay

You'll probably want to stay on your boat if it's large enough. There are several marinas around Havasu City, including ones, such as Havasu Springs Marina in California, that are close to the dam at the south end of the lake. www.golakehavasu.com

If you can't sleep aboard, then get away from it all at one of the many rustic "boat-in" campsites surrounding the lake. Don't expect much, but you'll get a place to pitch a tent, a grill, and a dry latrine for about $10 a night. www.azstateparks.com/Parks/LAHA/index.html

For something more upscale, a room at the London Bridge Resort starts around $130 per night. www.londonbridgeresort.com

Where To Launch

Most launch sites are centered around Havasu City, where you can also buy gas and provisions. But not all facilities remain open all year. Launch fees range from $15 to $20 per day, depending on the ramp. www.golakehavasu.com

Details

If your boat has been in the water for five or more consecutive days it must pass an ANS inspection and/or be decontaminated before you haul it home. Go to LHMarineAssn.com/decontamination-services/ for a list of decontamination stations.

Head south from Lake Havasu City and you'll reach Copper Canyon, on the lake's California shore. Popular with the spring-break crowd but quiet at other times of year, it's close to a high rock called Blind Leap where the daring, or foolish, jump 200 feet into the lake below.

According to Scott Benes, an angler who's spent years on the lake, many visitors get caught out by the shifting sandbars, keeping the local tow-boat operators busy pulling them off. "The sandbars in the lake are pretty well marked. But you need to use caution, as they do move when the river is high and the dam is open. When the dam is fully open, the water has been known to travel as fast as eight knots."

Surrounded by desert, the lake is a good choice for those looking to escape cooler climes elsewhere. The water is warm, and air temperatures can be extreme in summer months, making sunblock a must-have. The lake is a popular destination for PWC enthusiasts and hosts the world championships each October. Lake temperatures vary little throughout the year, making this a perfect destination for watersports of all kinds; tubing and waterskiing are especially popular during the summer. The lake also makes a good spot for small sailboats, especially early and late in the year when a consistent wind makes sailing, well, a breeze! 

— Published: Spring 2016


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