Lake Havasu City, AZ
It’s all about water in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This tiny desert community located 150 miles south of Las Vegas and 200 miles northwest of Phoenix would not exist without Lake Havasu, created in 1938 following the construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River. This city of 53,000 was the dream of real estate developer Robert McCulloch, who founded it in 1963 as a planned community. Today, Lake Havasu City thrives on tourism largely based on water sports.
The city is wedged between the federal Havasu National Wildlife Refuge to the north and the Arizona-run Lake Havasu State Park to the south. The national refuge occupies 37,500 acres, straddling both sides of the Colorado River and protecting 318 bird species. Lucky kayakers and boaters witness the spectacle of grebes in their mating dance across the waters of Topock Marsh. Mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep and coyotes also wander through this protected area. Located within the refuge, the petroglyph site in Topock Gorge is one of the best attractions in Lake Havasu City.
Tourists interested in water sports will find plenty of opportunities at Lake Havasu State Park, where one of the biggest draws is year-long fishing. For years, anglers have snagged bass, bluegill, crappie and sunfish in the 45-mile-long lake. Visitors interested in thrills can rent jet skis or speed boats from the park vendor, Windsor Beach Rentals. The park’s many other amenities, including 45 camp sites, three boat ramps, hiking trails and a designated swimming area, make it one of the most popular Lake Havasu City attractions.
Water sports are just part of the city’s appeal. The historic London Bridge has driven tourism to Lake Havasu City for more than 40 years. Five years after he founded the city, Robert McCulloch purchased the bridge from the British government in an effort to raise eyebrows, and he did. Tourists have flocked to Lake Havasu City ever since. Today, the bridge connects the downtown area with English Village, a shopping and dining area located on an artificial island.
London Bridge is not the only unusual structure visitors will find in the desert surrounding the lake. A non-profit community group now operates 19 lighthouses along both the Arizona and California shores of Lake Havasu. These functional structures, built by members of the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club, are replicas one third the size of famous U.S. lighthouses.
After the sun goes down, tourists trade in their jet skis and fishing poles for dance shoes and dice. The trendy Martini Bay offers guests an enchanting view of London Bridge while they enjoy house specialties, such as roasted salmon covered with honey-bourbon sauce. As the evening wears on, the live music and dancing begin. Across the lake, patrons of the Havasu Landing Resort & Casino experience a different sort of thrill at its 245 slot machines, including video poker and keno. Guests who prefer live action can play blackjack or three-card poker.