75°F
weather icon Clear

Boat best way to explore Topock Gorge

While the Havasu National Wildlife refuge protects 30 miles of the Colorado River, 20 remarkable miles of that flow through one of the few natural stretches remaining of the lower Colorado: Topock Gorge. Exploring it is a wonderful one-day adventure if you have any boating skills.

The gorge has high rocky cliffs on both sides with interesting formations including many natural arches. This stretch of the river is a native riparian area with Fremont cottonwood, coyote and Gooding’s willow and mesquite that support a variety of wildlife. It is especially a birder’s paradise, with more than 300 species either making homes here or using it regularly when migrating.

The wildlife viewing possibilities are endless. You will have the opportunity to see Western and Clark’s grebes, summer tanager and yellow-billed cuckoo. Larger birds include great blue herons, Peregrine falcons and an abundance of Canada geese, ducks and other waterfowl. Other wildlife in the gorge includes desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, javelinas, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions.

Established in 1941, primarily as a migratory bird habitat, the refuge includes 37,515 acres in California and Arizona. All of it lies within the Pacific Flyway and it is considered an Important Bird Area in the state of Arizona.

To visit Topock Gorge, you’ll need to either take a boat upstream from the Lake Havasu area, or downstream from the Topock Gorge Marina. The gorge is considered a Class I section of the Colorado, meaning it has flat water with a light current and no rapids.

My favorite trip through the gorge has been a one-way downstream kayak trip, starting at the Topock Gorge Marina under the Interstate 40 bridge over the Colorado River, then paddling and drifting down to the Castle Rock area. Besides the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, the 15-mile trip also takes you through the Needles Wilderness Area.

Be warned, though, this trip is remote. No roads access the river between your starting point and the place you’ll take your kayak out of the water, so you’ll need to be a confident and self-sufficient kayaker.

The lack of alternative take-out points makes it especially important, when planning your trip, to pay careful attention to weather conditions and forecasts, because high winds can ruin your adventure. If blowing up the river, they can make it very difficult and slow to paddle those 15 miles. With good weather, and allowing time to stop a few times for exploration, the trip downriver will take about five to seven hours.

The first and most popular take-out point (or your put-in point if you want to go upstream into the gorge and return the way you came) is at Castle Rock, at River Mile 220. The parking area is found off of Vista Drive in the community of Crystal Bay, just a couple of miles north of Lake Havasu City. From the parking area to the river is about 100 yards, so you’ll need to portage your kayak or canoe. The Castle Rock Bay area is closed to personal watercraft and is a no-wake zone.

You can take two vehicles, leave one at the takeout point, and shuttle yourself and your vessels to the launching area at Topock marina. Or you can use a guide service.

Desert River Outfitters, out of Bullhead City, Ariz., offers a shuttle service that will pick you and your kayak/canoe up at your planned take-out point in the morning, and bring you to the Topock Gorge Marina. Then you’ll be on your own to cruise downriver, at your own chosen speed, to the place you left your motor vehicle. The company also offers a complete package of shuttle, kayak and gear, for only $50 per person. Call 888-529-2533 or visit www.desertriveroutfitters.com.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns were recently compiled with new information and photos in “Base Camp Las Vegas” and published by Stephens Press. She is the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Leaf-peeping opportunities plateau in Utah

A chill is in the air in the Southwest’s high elevations, and fall foliage season is upon us. One of the best ways for Southern Nevadans to enjoy it this month is to head up to the Markagunt Plateau, just east of Cedar City, Utah.

Slot canyons, rock formations highlight visit to Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, located in south central Utah, was established in 1996 and currently encompasses about 1 million acres. It boasts some of the Southwest’s most impressive scenery, accessible not only by traveling its scenic byways and backways but also by setting out on foot. Besides its waterways, arches and other fabulous rock formations it is also home to spectacular canyons, including hundreds of slot canyons.

Navajo park provides monumental sights

One of the most picturesque places in the world is practically at our doorstep: the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Located on the border of Utah and Arizona, the park boasts buttes, mesas, spires, pinnacles and arches, arranged in some of the finest panoramic views on Earth.

Flaming Gorge known for fiery scenery, water activities

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, located in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah, makes an ideal summer destination for those seeking cool weather, stunning scenery or lots of water-related activities. It’s about a nine-hour drive from Boulder City, but rewards the effort with remarkable opportunities to fish, boat, raft, hike, camp or just drive the scenic roads.

More scenery, less crowds: Summer ‘grand’ time to visit canyon’s North Rim

If you are planning a visit to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona — and most people do have that visit on their bucket lists — you might consider aiming at the North Rim instead of the better-known South Rim. This area of the park, accessed via the Arizona Strip, gets only about 10 percent the number of visitors who crowd the South Rim.

Tufa give Mono Lake its unique look

Mono Lake is located just east of the Sierra Nevada Range by the small town of Lee Vining, California, the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park. Seeing it is a uniquely Western experience and summer is the time to see it.

Pool opens for summer Monday

The Boulder City Municipal Pool reopens Monday, May 31, after being closed for several weeks to remove the bubble.