Lake Havasu offers piece of architectural history, scenery and activities

Outdoor lovers who are looking for an exciting few days away from Las Vegas won’t be disappointed visiting Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

It is only a couple of hours’ drive, and there are endless activities, such as seeing the London Bridge, hiking, cycling, back road exploring or just seeing a great sunset along a beach.

The town was founded by Robert McCullough, who along with town planner C.V. Wood came up with the idea of purchasing London Bridge — the real one that used to cross the River Thames and the theme of a children’s song familiar to every American of a certain age. Once the deal was made, each piece was carefully marked for future reassembly. The pieces were shipped through the Panama Canal to California and finally to Arizona, where the bridge was reconstructed and rededicated in 1971. Today, the London Bridge is Arizona’s second-most popular tourist attraction, following the Grand Canyon.

Somewhat in the same spirit, 20 lighthouses have been built on the lake; all but one are one-third-scale replicas of real lighthouses found elsewhere in the United States. The volunteer Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club is responsible for this display, and they all provide aid in navigation on the lake.

The bridge may be the town’s main attraction, but the waters that flow beneath it are an even better reason for visiting. These waters are a boater’s paradise, and there are a multitude of ways to enjoy them. If you can bring your own kayak, canoe, paddleboard, motorboat or personal water craft, there are plenty of places to launch it. And if you don’t own a vessel, it’s easy to rent one in Lake Havasu City. More than 20 rental companies offer everything from human-powered, single-passenger craft such as paddleboards to houseboats big enough to hold a party. You can take one out by the hour, for a half day, full day or longer, depending on what type of craft you choose.

The water temperatures in Lake Havasu range from 75 to 85 degrees during much of the year, which is pretty much ideal for being out on the water on a boat or swimming along the shore. Once on the lake, you will find coves, beaches and wildlife refuges to explore.

If you have a motorboat or want to join a boat tour, I would highly recommend heading north on the lake about 23 miles to Topock Gorge. This is one of the Southwest’s secret treasures, for relatively few people ever go there. Yet, when I kayaked this section, I realized it was one of the best paddling experiences I have ever had. The gorge is about four miles long and is part of the 44,371-acre Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. You can see American Indian petroglyphs within a short walk from the shoreline, and there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, including bighorn sheep, wild burros and a wide variety of raptors and other birds.

When ashore, be sure to visit the English Village near the London Bridge for a couple of great restaurants, shops and the main visitor center. Be sure to take a stroll along the paved walkways on the banks of the Bridgewater Channel. The best- kept secret of the English Village is the Tecopa Ferry. No reservations are needed, and you can take a pleasant and comfortable 20-minute ride across the lake to the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation. Most people go there to gamble, but the scenic ride costs $3, and the return trip is free, so this excursion is worth it even if you don’t plan to gamble. It usually departs on the hour through the evening, until midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m. For more information, call 800-307-3610 or visit havasulanding.com.

For complete information on Lake Havasu City, including boat rentals, boat tours, camping or hotels, contact the Lake Havasu Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information, call 800-242-8278 or 928-453-3444 or visit golakehavasu.com.

Deborah Wall is the author of “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide” and “Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States,” published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at deborabus@aol.com.

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