Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Photo Essay: A Sizzling Sunset Cruise on Lake Havasu

At the California-Arizona border, where the Mojave transitions to the Sonoran Desert, the construction of Parker Dam along the Colorado River in the mid- to late-1930s filled a floodplain and created Lake Havasu. It's not really a lake, though—it's more of a reservoir.

In fact, some might say that it's just a wider, deeper part of the Colorado River with more water in it and less of a current.

It makes for good water sports and recreation, not the least of which is boating but also jetskiing, paddleboarding, and the like.

I imagine it's something of a successful version of the Salton Sea—without the annual fish and avian die-off and resulting stench and fly problem.

In 1967, three years after founding the planned resort community of Lake Havasu City, chainsaw mogul Robert McCulloch bought a bridge—not so much to span the body of water, as there was actually a peninsula in its place, but to create an attraction for tourists and potential homebuyers and landowners.



But it wasn't just any ol' bridge. McCulloch literally bought the London Bridge—the so-called "new" one from the 1830s—which wasn't so much falling down as sinking into the Thames and had to be replaced. He then dismantled it, transported the pieces to Arizona through the Panama Canal and into the Long Beach Harbor, and then had it painstakingly reassembled, each piece having been numbered and catalogued. 



The reassemblage was completed in 1971, along with an entire "English Village" that served as a quaint, open-air gateway to it. Many of the temporary buildings have since been torn down, but the scale replica of the Buckingham Palace gates still stands.



And there are plenty of other small touches to make you feel like you've crossed over to the other side of the pond...



...including a couple of red telephone booths (which you'd think would be extinct by now)...



...and plenty of Union Jacks alongside the Stars and Stripes and the Arizona State Flag.



Besides the fact of its mere existence here in Arizona, there's plenty of intriguing trivia to be learned about the London Bridge—including that it's only clad in its original English (actually "Haytor") granite. Inside, it's hollow, supported by reinforced concrete (ensuring that it will not, in fact, fall down).



Its five stone arches bear the strafing scars from the London Blitz bombings by Germany during World War II. And while some areas of the granite are dark while others are light, it was actually all dark when it arrived in Arizona, thanks to London's soot problem. In the nearly half-century since its relocation to the arid desert, the sun has bleached out many of those old, dark stains.



We were stupid enough to visit Lake Havasu at the end of July, in sizzling summer heat. When we arrived to town, it was 112 degrees outside. There would be no walking or exploring until sunset—at which point our group agreed on a late-in-the-day boat tour of the lake, its bridge, and whatever else there was to see.



Shave ice, chilled bottled water, personal cooling fans, and the setting sun helped. But sometimes, you've got to just give yourself over to the heat and be hot.



We set sail through the Bridgewater Channel, heading southeast into Thompson Bay towards the California state line...



...passing several of the 20-some-odd replica lighthouses that dot the shores...



...each providing a beacon for nighttime sailors and representing various real-life locales around the country.



We even spotted a (skinny) wild burro grazing for a snack on top of a shoreline hill.



And as the sun dipped behind the palm trees behind us...



...and we left it in our wake...



...we watched the crazy clouds ahead turn a rainbow of colors from yellow and orange to red and pink.



Approaching our turnaround point at Copper Canyon—which was once literally mined for its copper and settled as an encampment of miners—we spotted some kids jumping off the cliffs into the water and encouraged them with cheers and applause.



And after we turned around to head back to the dock, with most of the motorboatin' partiers wrapping up their daydrinking celebrations, we watched a spectacle of lightning that was isolated to just one storm cloud, hanging isolated and illuminated in the darkening evening sky.

Related Posts:
The View By Boat
Take Me to the River
S.O.S.