The Parker Dam spans the Colorado River between California and Arizona, and it is approximately 150 miles downstream from the Hoover Dam. It is the deepest dam in the world, with the ability to store 211 billion gallons of water. Nearby, the Parker Strip Recreation Area is a vibrant oasis between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts which follows a section of the Colorado River. A glimmer of life and vitality amongst the desert with steep rocky terrain and wind-shaped dunes, this BLM area provides unique geological beauty and simple yet majestic scenery.
Parker Strip provides the perfect juxtaposition between the cool river and the surrounding deserts. The area is known as the Thread of Life to its inhabitants due to how it has supported human and animal life for hundreds of years.
With cycling, boating, fishing, hiking, rockhounding, boating, picnic spots, and camping, as well as historic sites and idyllic scenery, there is so much to see and do here. As well as river access and a boat launch, the Rock House recreational area also has a Visitor Centre where you find out more information about the activities available. The dramatic desert landscape and rocky mountains ensure primitive camping at its finest, with two public campsites within the recreation area itself. Both are open year-round on a first come first served basis and are run by the Bureau of Land Management’s Lake Havasu Field office.
If you are looking to visit this linear oasis surrounding Lake Havasu, it is relatively easy to get to by car. The area is situated around 30 minutes from Lake Havasu City, on the Californian side of the Colorado River. To explore the area, you will need to follow Parker Dam Road. Beginning at the dam itself, the road travels south up to the boundaries of the Colorado River Indian Reservation.
This backcountry byway provides plenty of opportunities to go off the beaten path, and the 11-mile road features lots of scenic stops. Driving conditions are usually good, with the mild winter temperatures making this a popular spot to visit year-round. However, it should be noted that if you are driving an oversized vehicle or one that is towing a trailer, you will not be able to cross the dam itself.
There are several areas to park your vehicle along the 11-mile strip, including parking areas located near to the Bullfrog Day Use Area and the Rock House Recreation Area. You may need to pay for parking depending on which area you choose, but there should be signs indicating the fee.
There is minimal public transport in the area, and as a result, it is advised that you take your own vehicle.
The Buckskin Mountain State Park is ideal for both tents and RV Camping, with 60 camping sites and 21 RV sites. Each of the sites has water and 30 amp electrical hook up available, with 15 of them including sewer hook-ups as well. The park is open year-round, but you will need to reserve a spot as it can get busy.
Offering some of the finest views of the Colorado River, the campsite at the State Park offers the chance to camp right at the water’s edge. There are lots to do within the park, with hiking trails, picnicking, basketball and volleyball courts. Plus, kids will love the playground and there is also a store on site where you can pick up any camping supplies you may have forgotten.
There are two separate campgrounds within the Parker Strip Recreation Area, Empire Landing and the Crossroads Campground. Each campsite has a 14-day stay limit and works on a first-come, first-served basis. Empire Landing has 40 RV sites and 16 tent sites, and it is the only campsite to permit RVs in the recreation area itself. There is drinking water available, as well as restroom facilities and hot showers. Shade armadas provide the ideal spot for a picnic, and each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table and access to drinking water. With fees at around $13 a night for RV and tent sites and $30 for RV sites with hook-ups, this is an ideal RV camping spot for your Parker adventure.
Crossroads is a primitive campsite with one vault toilet available and only dry camping possible. Providing direct access to the river, this is a popular campsite for those with water-related recreational activities in mind with excellent access for fishing and boating. It is also close to the Crossroads OHV play area.
Each site comes with a picnic table and grill for al fresco dining, and there is one accessible campsite available. This is a relatively basic site, instead, it offers the chance to get back to nature and relax in a stunning setting. There will be an on-site BLM host to assist you if you have any queries or concerns during your stay.
You may just catch a big one at the Parker Strip Recreation Area. The river is teeming with largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegills, catfish and more. As well as fishing piers in the recreation areas, there is lots of rocky shoreline, which is ideal for casting your line. The Parker Bass Club holds fishing tournaments throughout the year. If you are planning on fishing in the area, it is important to check the local regulations regarding permits and licenses.
The waters of the Colorado River are ideal for getting out on the boat. There is a free boat launch year-round, with access to the Rock House Boat Ramp. The gradual flow of the river is also ideal for canoeing, with this being a popular pastime in the area. If you want to add a competitive element, check out Another Dam Race, which usually takes place in early November.
If you are planning on hitting the waters at Parker, it is advised that you check with the information center before heading out, as poor conditions may result in boating not being permitted at that time.
If you would like to swim in the crystal clear waters of the river, there is a swimming beach available in the Bullfrog Day Use area. There is a fee for day use, but there is nothing quite like swimming at this impressive desert setting. There are several other swimming spots along the river but this is one of the most popular amongst visitors. Plus, the Bullfrog Day Use area is also ideal for picnics with plenty of shade trees and armadas.
With so many agates and geodes in the surrounding hills, the Parker Strip Recreation Area is particularly popular for rockhounding. If you are interested in collecting rocks, stones, gems, minerals, fossils, and other such things, the Colorado River has been depositing treasures along its shores for millions of years.
If you are new to the art of finding rocks, the Lake Havasu Gem and Mineral Society organizes regular field trips in and around the area.
There are two open off-highway vehicle play areas within the Parker Strip Recreation Area, the Crossroads Off-Highway Vehicle Open Areas, and the Copper Basic Dunes. The latter is particularly popular as it includes over 1200 acres of open areas and some isolated dunes. Both play areas are unrestricted and feature loading ramps and restrooms.
Crossroads is situated to the west of the road, and it includes 1400 acres and a staging area that has a paved parking lot, restrooms and a loading ramp. It should be highlighted that vehicles must be street legal or have the appropriate off-highway vehicle stickers.
Hikers, trail runners, and backpackers have a wide choice of trails to choose from, with this area being the perfect place to explore on foot. Whether you are a beginner or looking for something a bit more challenging, there is a network of trails to choose from just south of SR 95.
If you prefer to explore by bike, cycling is also an option, with two main cycling routes of average difficulty and a variety of different terrains.