Lake Havasu is a just reward after your eyes, your skin, and your radiator have endured the practically endless desert southwest. The sudden shock of blue water and green palm trees as you first approach the Colorado River Valley at Needles or Parker is enough that most drivers need to pull over, just to make sure it's not a mirage.
Sunshine is abundant enough to be taken for granted in this part of the country, but water is not. Especially the forty-five mile long Lake Havasu which marks the transition from the Mohave desert of California to the Sonoran desert of Arizona.
From Page, AZ all the way to Yuma, towns have set up on the banks of the Colorado River in hopes of becoming major tourist attractions, but Lake Havasu City is the undeniable winner. Over a million visitors flock to Havasu all year round and the reason is simple - abundant access to the water.
Lake Havasu State Park is one of most popular parks in Arizona, and with beachfront camping, numerous clean sandy beaches, and a variety of access points for boats and watercraft, you'll understand why as soon as see for yourself. The campground is so popular that the state has a bit of struggle to keep visitors from skirting the fourteen day maximum stay.
The nearly 300 days a year of sunshine at Lake Havasu draw visitors for major events all year round. There are jet skis, jet boat races, and even fighter jets in an annual airshow. The water brings scuba divers, fishermen, lazy pontoon boats, and wake-skiers. There are hundreds of miles of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails, skydiving, helicopter rides, hot air balloon rides, music festivals, car shows, mineral shows, a winter fireworks display, and on and on. You get the idea. Havasu is a happening place!
But on the flip side, if you don't like crowds and applying sunscreen seven days a week, this place isn't for you. It gets so hot here that mid summer is actually the off-season. With an influx of thousands of retirement age snowbirds from November to March, this place can feel like two different cities depending on when you visit.
Lake Havasu is pretty isolated and breaking down or running out of gas in this region can be more than just inconvenient, it can be dangerous. With day time highs well above 100 degrees from June though September you'll want to be well watered, fueled up, and in top form to visit here in the heat. Havasu expects RVers so there's plenty of room in parking lots and gas stations. The campground has no tree branches to watch for and room for the largest big rigs.
Reservations STRONGLY recommended! Beach front campsites with power and water. A total of 47 clean and roomy spaces with BBQs, fire rings, and picnic tables under shade shelters. A large overflow area is available for dry camping and non-reservation visits in-season. There are restrooms, showers, a dump station and a playground. There are some bushes between the lake and the campsites, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing - the greenery acts as a windscreen to protect you from the strong winds off the lake. Be warned that there isn't a whole lot of trees in the park, so privacy isn't what it could be. Many sites have pergolas for shade from the strong sun.
The boat launch facilities are giant and have multiple lanes, a large dock and ample trailer and vehicle storage. The State Park is right in town with easy walking or bicycle access to shopping, restaurants and even a coffee stand. Several popular beaches. Minimum stays required in peak season.
For over twenty years, generations of beloved Volkswagen Buses have been meeting up in Lake Havasu for the annual Buses by the Bridge rally in January. More than five hundred buses show up from across the country to show off their one-of-a-kind restorations, customizations, and bizarre creations. Boondocking and tent camping on the south end of Lake Havasu State Park is available at a discounted rate for the weekend, but the regular campground is open as well. There are activities for the kids, live music, games, contests and hot air balloon rides.
Warm evenings on the water are one of the best things that Havasu has to offer. This three hour tour, which departs from London Bridge in the English Village, is only a mile walk south from the campground, and offers area history, exploration of a couple hidden coves, and an underwater light show. The tour runs all year round but check for availability and consider a jacket if you're here in winter.
Lots of lakes boast about being a fishing destination. Lake Havasu doesn't need to boast. It has consistently been rated as one of the best places to fish in the country, specifically for bass. There are professional and televised tournaments here each year and many prize-wining champions consider Lake Havasu home turf. Clear water and endless natural habitat come together to make your fish-stories a reality. Easy access to the water right in the park also make this a great place to get the kids into fishing.
If you want excitement, nothing can top Lake Havasu during boat races. Hundreds of the fastest boats in the country come to show off and make noise for a few days on the lake. Helicopters, television crews, thousands of people and hundreds of parties. They happen in the spring and fall so check the event calendars carefully. This might be a nightmare or a dream-come-true. Like Spring Break, this is the wild side of Lake Havasu and probably not for the kiddos.
If you like it hot, Havasu has what you need. Never ending summer sunshine is intense enough here to scare away the crowds. Come prepared for the heat and you'll be able to enjoy whole beaches and isolated canyons of Lake Havasu practically alone. Kayaking and paddleboarding will let you explore other spots, but the State Park beaches are clean and close to the store for more cold drinks. Just remember, summer is off-season here and many shops and restaurants will be closed.
If you need some more air-conditioned fun in your day hop on the Havasu Landing Casino Ferry. The boat crosses the lake all day and night to bring guests to the resort on the California side of the water. There is live blackjack and poker and many popular slot machines, video poker and keno. The Ferry departs from the London Bridge, just south of the State Park.