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A human-made oasis in the Sonoran Desert, Lake Havasu City is a 1960s-era planned community on the banks of an artificial lake. The sunny weather and large blue reservoir — formed by damming the Colorado River — draws boaters, fishers, and water recreationists from all corners of the Southwestern United States. Hikers and wildlife watchers hit trails through the arid Arizona landscapes, a habitat for many migratory birds. The city has its surprises, too: Founded by an eccentric chainsaw magnate, Lake Havasu City is perhaps best known for the real-life London Bridge, which was relocated here to attract tourists and new residents. The gimmick worked, as the bridge now ranks among the most popular attractions in Arizona.
About halfway between Las Vegas and Phoenix, Lake Havasu City is within reach of three major airports: Laughlin Bullhead International Airport (IFP) in Bullhead City, Arizona, about 65 miles north; McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS), about 150 miles north; and Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix (PHX), about 200 miles southeast. It takes about 5 hours to cover the 315 miles to Los Angeles, California. Popular rideshare services can shuttle you around town, though you’ll need a car to easily explore the region. You can pick up rentals at your destination airport as well as in town.
It’s almost always hot and dry in Lake Havasu City, which experiences a desert climate. As with much of the Southwest, you can expect more than 300 sunny days a year. Also common: extreme temperatures in the summer, when average highs exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit from June through September. In fact, Lake Havasu City holds the record for the hottest temperature observed in Arizona history (128 degrees). You’ll need to drink lots of water and watch overexertion in the summer.
If you’re not accustomed to this kind of heat, the other seasons are a safer bet. Spring is among the most popular times to visit, with pleasant highs in the 70s. From April through May, you can expect highs in the 80s and 90s. October and November offer similar conditions. Winter is the coolest time of year — but you can’t really consider average highs in the 60s cold. In other words, you’ll want to pack sunscreen even in January.
The town’s most famous attraction is a true American oddity: In 1968, a chainsaw magnate paid $2.46 million — almost $20 million in today’s dollars — to the City of London. More than 10,000 tons of granite blocks were dismantled and relocated to the Arizona desert, where the bridge now connects an island resort in the Colorado River with the main town’s development.
About 42 miles north of Lake Havasu City lies one of the most scenic wildlife refuges along the Colorado River. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Havasu National Wildlife Refuge by Executive Order in 1941 to preserve the migratory habitat for hundreds of bird species. It’s a popular spot for hiking the mountainous terrain as well as paddling through Topock Gorge.
As you explore the lake, you may notice a series of familiar-looking lighthouses — perhaps an odd sight in landlocked Arizona. More than two dozen scaled-down replicas of well-known U.S. lighthouses dot the shoreline, originally built to aid nighttime navigation of the lake.