- John Wesley Powell, from "The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons"
|The spectacularly clear water of the Colorado River|
Map of the Topock Gorge
View Map of the Topock Gorge Kayaking Route in a larger map
How I ended up in the Topock Gorge and Lake Havasu
I heard about the Topock Gorge through a Las Vegas old-timer that I met in Red Rock Canyon. I sensed that he knew a thing or two about some of the better adventures around this part of the country. We talked a while and found out that both of us had pretty much done all the things to be done in the area, but he did mention the Topock Gorge. Great birding and kayaking was what I heard! About a month later, I managed to scrape up two days of off time and headed east from Los Angeles.
|A simpler way to travel|
This trip was my first time really on the Colorado river so there were many things that I did not anticipate or expect. Towards Lake Havasu, the river is much more like an estuary than a river. There are multitudes of reeded islands and temporary sandbars. It was actually quite difficult to navigate; there's little current and many islands which can cause confusion. As I paddled further up river, the banks became closer together.
|From the bow|
As the river narrowed, I pushed further and further into an area of complete wilderness. This gave me a great sense of serenity and joy. I was the only one out on this section of the river so I felt like an explorer. In a sense, I was; I could find no real maps of the area and was going off of a brochure! Obviously its difficult to get lost on a river, but the feeling of total solitude among a strange land of natural arches, building-sized sand dunes, and an epic river made the trip like a modern-day "Huckleberry Finn" story.
After about 10 miles of paddling upriver, I hit a section called "The Devil's Elbow". This section is most certainly one of the most beautiful sections of the Colorado. A "Grand" canyon is created here with walls that are hundreds of feet high. I hit this section right at sunset so the appenglow created a heavenly picture. The water was emerald-green and I could hear the sounds of hundreds of waterfowl who seemed to be enjoying the river as much as I was. It was almost saddening to leave this section.
|Yes, it feels like that!|
I pushed on for another 3 miles and the stronger current slowed my pace. Fortunately, a nice sandbar was formed on an island which made for a perfect campsite. So there I was, camped under a billion stars, cooking up dinner, drinking beer and listening to the distant howl of Arizona coyotes. I confess I howled back at them; "This is California Joe, all's well on this side of the river!" Who cares if it was silly? Nobody else will hear!
|The Interstate-40 bridge between California and Arizona|
Eventually, the current dropped me off in a very windy Lake Havasu. The guy said he'd pick me up wherever I happened to be at 4:00PM. There was an extreme amount of wind on the Lake so I was able to make it down another 10 miles. Lake Havasu is very cosmopolitan and "touristy" compared to what I just paddled but pretty nevertheless. The famous "London Bridge" crosses part of the lake onto a man made island. This is the actual London Bridge that at one point crossed the River Thames! In the 1960's when the old bridge was replaced, the founder of Lake Havasu City literally bought the bridge and shipped it over from the U.K. piece by piece to a most unlikely location deep in the Mojave Desert. How strange!