Paddling the Lower Colorado

After my trip out to Black Canyon last year I've been wanting to get back to the Arizona border to paddle some more of the lower Colorado River. Looking at the map, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge and Bill Williams Refuge (at either end of Lake Havasu) seemed to have lots of protected backwaters to explore.  With the series of dams that dot the colorado river there's a lot of slow moving water than can be travelled upstream with a faster touring kayak, without having to worry about doing car shuttles.   

Topock Marsh

My plan was to start off on Lake Havasu and paddle down into the Bill Williams refuge.  Unfortunately neither refuge allows for camping, but there are a few other good options for kayak camping.  Lake Havasu does have a string of BLM campsites dotted along the eastern side of the lake leading up to the Bill Williams refuge.  It was memorial day weekend and the campsites are first-come-first-serve, so I launched right at sunrise from the Cattail cove campground, and grabbed a vacant spot on the lake before heading into the refuge.  I found out later that the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge visitor center allows for free overnight parking right next to the ranger station, which seems like a better plan for next time.  Lake Havasu itself tends to be pretty hectic with speed boats and jet skis tearing all over the place, but once you approach Bill Williams there's a no wake zone where things start to get pretty peaceful.  If you're into birding, this area is a key migratory zone for a lot of species.  At this time of year there were a lot of American Coots, Dancing Grebes, Vultures, and Green Herons.  I'm curious to see it sometime during the winter migration.  

On day 3 I headed up to explore Havasu Wildlife Refuge.  The water seemed to be flowing pretty fast where it came out of the refuge and meet with the main Colorado channel, so I decided to stay away from that section so that I'd be sure to be able to get back to the car.  Once you get north of that section, whether on the colorado or in the refuges, the water seemed to be moving a lot slower, so the current wasn't a concern elsewhere. It was also a whole lot quieter too. There wasn't a single other boat or kayaker on the water on this upper section.  Maybe the mosquitos were part of the reason for that - I got eaten alive, but didn't really use repellent either. That'll be a must have for next time. Along the shoreline dragonflies covered the vegetation. In the evening I paddled out of 5-mile landing on Topock Marsh. I didn't see as many birds towards this section of the river, but at dusk the marsh came alive with a chorus of bullfrogs, with huge catfish hunting them in the shallows.  There was a lot more water to explore out on the Havasu refuge than there was in Bill Williams, so already looking forward to getting back to see more of it. 
 

Green Heron
Kayaking Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge
Cliff Swallows Feeding
Dragonfly
Vulture
Kayaking Topock Marsh at Dusk