I have found that most folks don’t have very good knowledge of the lower Colorado River. I do know that southern California considers it nirvana’s paradise and flock here on warm weekends throughout the year for water recreation. So you can understand my mystification upon asking several people about boating the Colorado River from Yuma and basically what I got was “Oh the river is nice, but I don’t know where you go to launch.” Stop!
Today we decided to drive out a short 24 miles north of our place and check it out for ourselves. We rode the Wing one year out to Lake Martinez but didn’t really understand at that time how it played into the Colorado system. Long time readers may recall that Marc and I rode out with friends on the bikes and had lunch; that area is fairly commercialized with a couple of low-key resorts with restaurants, RV parks, and a small marina. It looked tranquil with pleasant blue skies. I had wondered then if it was landlocked somehow.
I was driving and took the highway which starts on government property at the Yuma Proving Grounds as Marc said “No, Lake Martinez is farther north”. “Well” I replied, “I think Melanie said they launch at somewhere called Senator Wash off this road.” So down the bumpy road we went following the BLM signs to the long term snowbird parking areas to Senator Wash Lake. We had crossed the Great American canal which drops directly out of Imperial Dam some miles back and suddenly upon cresting a slight hill had blue water in sight!
A true oasis in this desert, the water glistened purely of clear blue as jet skiers and boats crisscrossed below us. Where was that muddy Colorado of downtown Yuma? Not here, thank God! Farther down the small road we stopped to talk with the camp host situated below the obvious dirt dam face at what appeared to be yet another lake. We soon found out the upper lake, Senator Wash, is pumped there out of the Colorado (and the lower lake called Squaw Lake) to be used as additional needed water storage in late summer or when irrigation needs manifested themselves. It is truly one of the few self-contained lakes in this region and used, sometimes heavily, for recreation. However, on the distant shore it was noted that there were many empty sand beaches, appearing as though one needed to get there by boat only. That’s what we’re seeking!
The camp host was most gracious in lining us out with the information he possessed (he is new on the job) and giving us a couple of boating pamphlets. Day use in this entire area is $10/day or for $75 annually you can have unlimited access. Well, that’s a no-brainer! That would include using any of the available boat launches under the auspices of the BLM in this recreation area. Once launched from here, with our sticker which will give unlimited parking for our tow vehicle in his watched parking lot, we can navigate up-river for 76 miles to Blythe, CA. From there, we can also go north but we currently lack the information on that section of the river. Once one hits the Parker Dam, above which sits Lake Havasu, there is yet another 88 miles to Davis Dam which sits just north of Needles, CA, also totally navigable. So there are several segments of the Colorado to enjoy recreationally in this southern Arizona area. Obviously, the one we will be concentrating on initially is the segment from Imperial Dam north to Blythe. Boat camping here we come!