Havasu Has It!

By Pat Piper

Photo of people boating on Lake HavasuOnce out of the no-wake zone on Lake Havasu's Bridgewater Channel Canal, the throttle can be pushed forward. Boaters will see the California shoreline to the West and the Arizona shoreline to the East. (Photo by Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau)

When the Parker Dam was opened in 1938, the Colorado River started backing up, filling canyons and valleys, creating Lake Havasu. By the time the water leveled off, Havasu's eastern shoreline was in Arizona and the western shoreline, three miles away, was in California. The 45-mile-long lake provided water to San Diego and Los Angeles, and hydroelectric power to more than 70 municipalities. Lake Havasu operated as planned.

Then Robert McCulloch flew over the lake in 1958 looking for a place to build outboard motors (he was already building chainsaws). He bought some land for his factory and then bought another 3,500 acres with the idea that this would be a good place for a planned community. McCulloch hired C.V. Wood, who designed the layout for Disneyland to assist and within a few years, three plants were manufacturing two-stroke outboard engines and some of his 400 employees were living in the planned development called Lake Havasu City.

"The lake was a good place to use a test facility for the outboard motors, says Ken McKinney of Vessel Assist Lake Havasu, part of the TowBoatUS family on the west coast of the United States." The weather was good and the water was smooth but, in order to make his planned community on Lake Havasu into something people talked about, he had to come up with a tourism attraction."

McCulloch heard about a bridge that was for sale and that was enough to start the wheels in his creative head turning. The bridge was old, built in 1831, and would have to be disassembled into more than 10,000 pieces of granite weighing a total of more than 22 million tons. But there was one other little problem with the idea: it was the London Bridge, more than 9,000 miles from Lake Havasu City. McCulloch offered $2.5 million, got the bridge, had it taken apart and floated across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal, then delivered to Long Beach California before being trucked to Lake Havasu. The structure was put back together on a peninsula called Pittsburgh Point, and then McCulloch dredged a mile-long channel under the (new) London Bridge. Today, Pittsburgh Point is called "the island" because, well, that's exactly what it is now and the channel, now called the Bridgewater Channel Canal, is known for having restaurants and docks on both sides, a no-wake zone, and being exceptionally crowded with boats on weekends. It's at the mid point of Lake Havasu's length and is, literally, the center of activity. And there's a lot of activity these days.

For example, recently the movie "Pirahna 3D" opens across the country. Filmed at Lake Havasu, with assistance from Vessel Assist's McKinney and starring Elizabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard Dreyfuss, it's a remake of a film from the "70"s about a tremor beneath the water that releases prehistoric man-eating fish.

"I haven't seen any piranhas," McKinney will quickly tell you, "but there's a lot of fishing tournaments here including BassWest, FLW Outdoors, and Bassmasters, most of whom launch at the Windsor Beach ramp in Lake Havasu State Park, just north of the London Bridge. " Many times, boaters participating in weekend tournaments will take advantage of the campsites in the park and keep their boats nearby. It needs to be pointed out that this state park and Cattail Cove State Park south of Lake Havasu City are among the nine that weren't shut down as a result of budget shortfalls this year. The fact that both are well-used by many of the lake's 2.5 million visitors each year is why they survived the budget ax. There have been discussions in Lake Havasu City government about taking over the Havasu Park if budget woes continue. Windsor Beach has three ramps, one designated for only jetskis, and can be busy on weekends.

Speaking of jetskis, you're going to see a lot of them on trailers coming into Lake Havasu. In fact, the International Jet Sports Boating Association (www.ijsba.com) has a World Finals tournament on the lake every October, attracting professional riders from as many as 30 countries. That's why Lake Havasu is called the "Personal Watercraft Capital of the World." But it's not just jetskis that congregate here. There's a group of Volkswagen van owners who have an annual get-together along the Havasu shores.

"This is truly a great thing, "McKinney notes. "From Lake Havasu City you're 22 miles from Parker Dam at the southern end of the lake. And going north, you're 28 miles from the quiet and narrow part of the Colorado River with granite cliffs on either side. And here along Bridgewater Channel, you've got everything you need within walking distance. Everything is close."

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Did You Know?

There are more lighthouses on Lake Havasu than in any other place in the country? The Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club (www.lh-lighthouseclub.org) has 15 replicas of actual lighthouses around the country situated around the lake for navigation.More are planned and each one is one-third the size of the actual lighthouse. Lake Havasu's Arizona shore has East Coast Lighthouses while the California shore has west coast lights. Lake Havasu islands, like Pittsburgh Point, contains lighthouses from the Great Lakes.

Lake Havasu City Convention & Vistors Bureau:

Bluewater Charters & Jetboat Tours:

Havasu Fishing Blogs:

Havasu Fish Story

It was last year in early spring and once again nobody could make it fishing with me. I headed out of Cattail Cove shortly after lunch with 10 bags of frozen anchovies and a 10-lb slab of squid. I arrived a few minutes later at my first spot and dropped down a hook. Nothing was showing on the fishfinder and it was still early so I decided to troll to my next spot. Got to my next spot without any bites and anchored up.

The fishfinder was showing some activity, which appeared to be catfish. I started cutting chum and tossed out a line. The area was looking really fishy and I could see fish popping on the surface as I started chumming. Within 15 minutes or so I got my first hook up which comes unbuttoned. Tossed out another line and set the pole in the rod holder. Within a minute I got slammed, the drag was peeling fast and the fish was straight under the boat.

I worked the pole out of the rod holder and tried to gain some ground; finally the fish stopped and I started cranking; before I could get it half way to the boat it took off again. I could see now that there wasn't much line on my reel. Slowly I started gaining on it one crank at a time. About 20 feet from the boat, I saw a big striper slap his tail on the water, and I knew then it was my biggest. I finally got the fish to the boat and took an unsuccessful swipe at it with the net.Turned it around again and took another swipe and the fish dropped out the net. I realized the fish was too big for the net and I had to grab him with my hand. I swung the fish around one final time and grabbed it's bottom lip and hoisted him in the boat and started screaming. Called my mom with the news and she meets me at the dock with the camera.



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