50 Years On The River

Submitted Story By Dan Delasantos and Contributing Photographer Amy Harmon:

When you look out over Lake Havasu in the summer months today what do you see? On a busy weekend you will find thousands of recreationists enjoying a fun filled day on the water with family and friends. From the top of the city you can even hear the faint roar of the boats as they travel from one end of the lake to the other.

For a small group of the town’s original residents, they see things a little differently. When they look out over the lake in the early morning, when the lake is like a mirror, they see a place where they grew up as children that holds fond memories dating back to the early ‘60s and ‘70s.

Residents of Lake Havasu and long-time friends enjoying the lake back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  
photo courtesy Dan Delasantos

Every few years a handful of these river pioneers band together and arrange a cruise upriver through Topock Gorge to visit their old haunts along the way such as one of the river’s oldest establishments known to locals as the Topock Bar & Grill.

What memories does the river offer this group of childhood pioneers?

“As young children, we had the unique life experience of simply being the only ones on the water on any given day. We could cross the glassy lake for ice while camping and find our wake still dissipating on our way back to camp. When the river was busy with more than a dozen water skiers, we would load up a group of families in multiple boats and make our way up river through the mouth of the gorge.

Navigating Devil’s Elbow for the first time can offer up a surprise to drivers as their boat may shift left then right without warning due to the force of the water in some sections. photo courtesy Dan Delasantos

After a quick jump off the Crystal Beach Cliffs we would make our way past Mohave Rock to visit the historic petroglyphs along the east side shoreline. From there we would make our way up through the notorious Devil’s Elbow where the waters still provide an unpredictable current of swift-swirling water today. The towering canyon walls in this section dwarf all the passing boats and rise up from the water’s edge hundreds of feet like a cathedral along this majestic timeless passage.

As we made our way further up river, our parents would point out the pipeline and bridge that crossed the skyline. They would remind us that the bridge could be seen in the 1937 classic movie ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ or that new movie ‘Easy Rider’. On occasion we would hear the thunder of the train bounce off the river as it crossed over the tracks from Arizona to California.

Long-time Havasu residents and life long friends often enjoy the Pirate’s Cove while on the river. photo courtesy Dan Delasantos.

We always enjoyed our visit to the historic Topock Bar & Grill where we fueled up our boats with gas and our bellies with a delicious hot meal. Afterward we would take a leisurely float back down the river and without a care in the world let the current take us back to Lake Havasu.”

Now that 50 years have come and gone, what does the river still offer those of you who saw it in its heyday?

“Today we are in our late 50s and early 60s and we can still experience all those wonderful moments including the swirl in the river and the beautiful views. Once the summer holidays are over and the thousands of lake worshipers have come off the water, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the warm weather and peaceful beauty of the river.

We have continued all of these years to gather early on a quiet weekday at the London Bridge Resort docks and make the journey back up river to reclaim our youth. Yes, you can revisit the past and yes it can be a wonderful experience.

The Topock Bar has since been rebuilt into a wonderful new establishment with new world entertainment while maintaining an old school respect for their patrons. The GM, Chip, and his staff always take good care of our group whenever we visit. An added bonus in today’s life on the river for us is Pirates Cove. They too go out of their way to welcome our river pioneers right down to creating a special drink menu when we arrive!

No matter how many years you spend growing up on the river, these grand views of Topock Gorge remain some of the most spectacular to be found between Parker and Davis dams. photo courtesy Dan Delasantos

For those few hours we feel like the river once again belongs to us with no one else in sight. It continues to share all of its wildlife, beautiful scenery and towering mountains. For a brief time we can feel like kids again as though we had just seen it for the first time.

So while there is still wild life along the shores and clear skies above we will continue to come together as friends and spend time on the river that has so fondly become part of our lives, our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives.”

When do you recommend taking a trip like this up river?

“We prefer any time after the second week of September through the second week in October. The weather is still warm and the water is still warm enough for a swim.”

What do you recommend to a large group wanting to take a trip like this?

“If you don’t have boats, the local boat rental shops have pontoon boats that will accommodate any size group you may have. We have used Paradise Wild Wave in the past and appreciate their great customer service. We recommend you contact the restaurants you plan to visit in advance if you have a large group. They will be prepared and provide ample staff to accommodate your group with a smile.”

The group of Pioneers takes a break before going back out on a river cruise. photo courtesy Dan Delasantos.

One Response to “50 Years On The River”

  1. Warren Alvord says:

    Dan, that was one of the best trips ever with all the old friends from Havasu back in the day. I never grow tired of going up River and seeing all the beautiful scenery. My wife Joelle and I have made the trip up River many times and will continue to make that trip in the future. Thanks again for a great trip up Memory Lane.
    Warren and Joelle Alvord

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