In early February I had the opportunity to paddle through Topock Gorge on the Colorado River just north of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The Colorado in this area is crystal clear Caribbean blue, deep, and cold. It still seems wild at this point, although all of the pipelines and gauges and pumps at the launch site near I-40 told me a different story. Soon though, all of the highway noises vanished and the heavy silence of the desert was all I could hear.
The thing about paddling in the desert that I don’t think I’ll ever get over is the shock of that much liquid flowing through the heart of so much arid land. The color of the cliffs and rocks is amazing and changes as abruptly as the weather in Delaware. Some of the rock surfaces are as orange as my mango kayak and then, right next to those, will be hills of ash-colored sand. It looks like you’re paddling through a volcanic eruption.
Plant life scratches out toe holds where ever a little sand and dirt is allowed to accumulate.
After being in the desert for a few weeks and seeing only the crazy spine-covered formations of hundreds of species of cacti, it was strange to see palm trees and thick marsh grasses growing along the banks. At the end of the route the river was wider and slower and the marshes were so thick that it was hard to find the trail to the take-out!
The Topock Gorge section of the Colorado is flat – no white water at all. So it is an easy paddle. The current moves at about 3 knots. The day I did it I had a 15 mph tail wind. So I made the 15 mile trip in about 3.5 hours. I had some time constraints (my usual late start and an impatient shuttle driver – aka Mitch) but I hope to go back someday to explore the many feeder creeks and hiking opportunities along the route.