Lake Havasu State Park is a state park of the U.S. state of Arizona, located in the northern Sonoran Desert region near the city of Parker, Arizona. The park consists of 1,400 acres (5km2) surrounding Lake Havasu, an impoundment on the Colorado River created by the Lake Havasu Dam across the mouth of the river. Lake Havasu State Park features camping facilities and over 200 miles (320km) of trails open to hiking, mountain biking, horses and all-terrain vehicles. It also has boating and fishing areas as well as a visitor center with displays on local wildlife and plants.
There are more than 30 miles (48km) of dirt roads within the park that are accessible by four-wheel drive or vehicle with high clearance. These include the Boogert Canyon Road, Cantil Road, Creek Road, Greenfield Highway, Iron Horse Trail, La Siesta Court road, McConkey Ranch Road, Oak Grove Road, Rock Point Road, Sandstone Lane, Shonto Road, Water Tanker Station Road, and York Avenue. In addition there are paved routes for most major access including the Ash Grove campground entrance, Birch Creek campground entrance, Camp Columbia entrance, Crystal Cove beach entry, Old Towne area entry, Pine Valley exit, Rawlinsville exit, Rillito exit, Skyline Drive exit, Sunrise Boulevard entrance, and Yuma Street entrance. A network of backcountry trails allows hikers to venture off the beaten path. Some of these trail connect with other parts of the park while others lead out into nearby National Public Lands Day Use Area where additional wilderness opportunities exist.
The park was established in 1970. Before then, it was part of the massive Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which encompassed 965,000 acres (3.9million ha), much of it in California but some of it along the border with Mexico. When oil was discovered at Cabeza Prieta in 1938, drilling began immediately. However, because so many people were living in such close proximity, environmental issues were not considered until decades later. By the time they were addressed, the site had been divided up among private land owners, who continued to operate their ranches largely as they always had. To make matters worse, several fires burned large sections of the refuge during the 1960s and ’70s, reducing the amount of habitat available. After years of wrangling between residents hoping to have public lands around them preserved as parks, national refuges, and private landowners trying to extract maximum economic benefit from what little remained, federal officials announced in May 1970 that 157,000 acres would be turned over to the states to form Lake Havasu State Park.
Although the original plan called for the construction of a dam across the main channel of the Colorado River just above its confluence with the Little Colorado River, plans changed when crews working on the Glen Canyon Dam encountered unexpected hard rock below the surface. Because of this, the Lake Havasu Dam stands almost entirely in the soft soil of the flood plain of the Little Colorado River, about one mile north of its junction with the Colorado. This reduces the reservoir’s capacity by about 12,500 acre-feet (15,000,000m3). Nevertheless, upon completion in 1975, Lake Havasu became the largest inland water body in the world, stretching nearly 20 miles (32km) along the shoreline and covering 2,300 acres (10km2). It holds approximately 409,275acre-feet (837,290,000m3) of water, enough to cover 57 square miles (140km2) every five years. Lake Havasu State Park encompasses three separate units, each with different levels of visitation. The southernmost unit includes Crystal Cove, Rainbow Beach, and the Back Bay, which together host over 75,000 overnight visitors annually.
The middle unit contains the bulk of the park, including the lake, the beaches, the old town area, and the historic buildings and sites. This unit sees roughly 250,000 annual visitors. The northernmost unit, known as North Shore Preserve, protects a sensitive riparian zone and is only open to pedestrians and equestrians. Visitors can enter the preserve through a gate at the end of Moccasin trail. No motorized vehicles or bicycles are permitted inside the preserve. The park offers swimming, boating, picnicking, RV and tent campsites, cabins, horseback riding stables, 18 modern and 106 primitive hike-to campsites, group camp, yurts, nature center, museum, and golf course. The park has full facility camping sites, including hookups for electricity and water, picnic tables, and parking lots. Facilities at the park are restrooms with showers, vending machines, playground areas, Wi-Fi access, boat ramps, and two airstrips. Other amenities are hiking trails, desert botanical gardens, natural springs, natural hot pools, cienagas, bathhouses, gift shop, courtesy boat dock, and marina store. Boat docks accommodate anything from paddleboats to house boats to flatsbed trucks to party barges, all of which are common sights on the lake. The marina store sells bait, tackle, gifts, ice, snacks, drinks, T-shirts, hats, boots, and clothing.
The park hosts numerous events throughout the year, including festivals, fairs, rodeos, concerts, and outdoor sports tournaments. Events held at Lake Havasu State Park include: Lake Havasu State Park hosted the World Outdoors Festival in 1980 and 1981; the USA Pro Cycling Championship race in 1985; and the UCI Mountain Biking Championships in 1995. The park also played host to the 2002 International Equestrian Games and the 2011 Pan American Games. The equestrian competition used portions of the park’s multi-use trails and temporary course. The park also served as the location for the Miss Universe contest in 1996. Lake Havasu State Park is home to the University of Phoenix Stetson School of Law and the Florida Institute of Technology Orlando campus. The park provides excellent bird watching opportunity especially during the winter season.
Common species observed include golden eagles, owls like barred owls, kites, hawks, mockingbirds, cardinals, wild turkeys, ducks, bald eagles, geese, loons, grebes, pelicans, herons, hummingbirds, red-shafted flickers, black-capped chickadees, gray cat birds, white-winged doves, yellow-breasted chats, blue grosbeaks, indigo bunting, Baltimore orioles, brown creepers, pileated woodpeckers, northern pygmy owls, and ospreys. Also seen are deer, rabbits, raccoons, armadillos, opossums, bobcats, coyotes, kit foxes, mink, porcupines, and muskrats. Occasionally black bears are sighted. Lake Havasu State Park is located in southeastern Kingman County, northeast of the community of Parker, adjacent to Interstate 40 and 5 minutes east of the eastern terminus of the Samalayuca National Forest. Its nearest neighbor is Cottonwood, about 10 miles distant. Lake Havasu State Park is surrounded by privately owned property without any public access.
Entrance fees are $6 daily for persons 13 years or older, children 12 and under are allowed in at no cost. Passes good for 3 days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging admission are offered at a cost of $75 for adults, $60 for youth between the ages of 7 -13, kids 6 and under are allowed in at no cost.