Winter Riding and Camping on the Colorado River

Feb 14, 2015 View Comments by

Winter Riding and Camping on the Colorado River                I know, I know. For multitudes of you in other parts of the country, “winter riding” is a virtual oxymoron. So don’t hate me when I tell you that I just returned home from three days of riding and tent camping on the banks of the lower Colorado River. Let me give you a glimpse at what this impressive western waterway has to offer the mid-winter motorcyclist.

Winter Riding and Camping on the Colorado River                For clarity’s sake let’s identify the lower (or southern) Colorado River as the defining border line between western Arizona, eastern California, and Nevada. The upper Colorado, which famously cuts through the Grand Canyon, is more appropriately a summer ride due to the high elevations of the canyon rims.

For this trip, I targeted what I feel to be the most beautiful portion of the southern river valley— the stretch between Parker, AZ, and Lake Havasu, AZ. The riverside ride north of Parker is a serpentine cathedral bounded by rock spires. There are roads both on the Arizona and California sides of the river (AZ SR 95 and Parker Dam Road respectively). These two roads are very different in “feel.” The Arizona tarmac is smooth and consistent as it carves through the crimson canyons, whereas the California side is a bit rough but much curvier. The two roads make up a nice 50-mile loop ride with Parker as its southernmost point and the picturesque Parker Dam capping the northern section.

Winter Riding and Camping on the Colorado River                The other worthy ride is the up and back trek to Lake Havasu City, which boasts the original London Bridge (shipped to Arizona in pieces). Certainly, the London Bridge is a “must-see” not only for its old-world beauty, but also for the surreal ambiance it creates in the Arizona Desert. For me, the highlight of this part of the ride is the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. Here, the road cuts across a river wetland environment that is atypical for the desert Southwest.

For camping, I prefer the Arizona State Parks that dot the eastern bank of the Colorado River. There are quite a few of them, but my new favorite is River Island State Park. There are tent spots right on the banks of the river, clean bathrooms with hot showers, and other amenities. It is also a park that is central to the area’s places to explore.

One last note: if you plan well, you can take in one of the several desert races that are staged in this area throughout the winter months. My trip coincided with the famous Parker 425 off-road competition.

Arizona State Parks: azstateparks.com

Bill Williams River Wildlife Refuge: www.fws.gov/refuge/bill_williams_river

Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/bP2Sn

Text and photography by Tim Kessel

 

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