Birding the north end of Lake Havasu

I’ve written many times about Lake Havasu’s north end, particularly Cape Havasu. I’ve written about many of the rarities that have been seen there, and about the many reasons why I enjoy birding there. Now it’s probably about time I describe how to bird the north end and its various vantage points. While Cape Havasu is clearly my favorite, each one is worth checking and can offer views of different sheltered coves, and has a different mix of lakeside vegetation attracting passerines. Be sure to check out this Google Map to view all the locations.

North End Lake Havasu

Google map showing Cape Havasu (the northernmost spit in the center of the screen) and Mesquite Bay North (both spits on the south end of the map).

Starting from the south. From the highway, turn west on Industrial Avenue. It comes to a 4-way stop at London Bridge Rd. Go straight to visit Lake Havasu State Park, or turn right (north) to explore the north end.

The first viewpoint reached doesn’t have a name, and access is a bit iffy. London Bridge Rd. crosses a wash just before it goes up a hill and through a small residential area (look for a 25 mph speed limit). At the wash, there is a wide pullout on the west side–not necessarily meant for parking, and a bit sketchy. From here, a trail follows a series of hills out to the lake, and provides a nice view of the sand bar that forms when lake levels are low. This sand bar can be very attractive to gulls and shorebirds.

Continuing north, a sign marks a dirt road leading to Mesquite Bay South. A few trails lead off from the parking area, around and up the hills. Dense arrowweed here can be very attractive to migrants, and this isn’t as popular among the public as the nearby Mesquite Bay North.

The next viewpoint heading north is Mesquite Bay North, also well-marked, and this one with a paved parking lot right off London Bridge Rd. Outhouses are a bonus, sort of, but personally I’m only willing to deal with the abundant wildlife of that particular outhouse in an emergency. My skin crawls just thinking about it. Anyway, this is a nice place with paved trails, interpretive signs, a fishing dock, etc. It can be full of people at times. Dirt trails around the two points here provide access to some nice riparian vegetation, and the south point provides a very good viewpoint of the lake. This is the deeper part of the lake’s north end, which can be great for loons, grebes, diving ducks, and the like.

Continuing north on London Bridge Rd., the road goes past a bunch of trees (willows) on the left, then goes up and over a hill. On the left side just north of the hill, a large palo verde marks a wide pullout. This is the parking for Cape Havasu. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see two National Wildlife Refuge signs on a barbed wire fence: one saying NO HUNTING ZONE, the other saying “Authorized Access Only”. Not to worry, you’re okay as long as you don’t bring in a dirt bike. There is a fairly narrow gap in the fence here (it’s a bit of a squeeze with a coat, camera, scope, etc.), and watch out for the single barbed wire strand just off the ground!

Signs at Cape Havasu

When visiting Cape Havasu, look for these signs to mark the entrance.

From here it’s easy to follow the trail up to the top of the hills. I like this viewpoint in particular because you can see the deeper water around Mesquite Bay as well as the shallow water around the marshes at the very north end. The narrow riparian vegetation around the hill funnels migrants, making this an amazing place to watch the birds go by.

Long-tailed Jaeger

LCRV Rarity Photos

From Long-tailed Jaegers to Cassin’s Sparrows, you never know what could turn up at Cape Havasu! Jaeger photo by David Vander Pluym; sparrow photo by Lauren Harter.

Riparian vegetation, mostly willows, mesquite and tamarisk, runs north to The Refuge golf course. The vegetation is too thick to walk into, so it is very difficult to bird, but it can be rewarding. A surprising variety of birds breeds here.

To bird north of Lake Havasu itself, continue on London Bridge Rd. Just before it turns back and meets the highway well north of Lake Havasu City, Crystal Beach/Fathom Dr. cuts west. Follow this to the small community of Crystal Beach. Make a left at the stop sign, and follow Vista Dr. A wide, graded dirt road cuts off to the left down a wash. This leads to Castle Rock Bay. A short hike leads you to a scenic view of Castle Rock and allows you to scan the sheltered bay, which can attract interesting birds. Back on Vista Dr., follow it west until it ends and the road turns north. Park here and walk out onto the hills for a nice overlook of the marshy backwater of the Colorado River just north of Lake Havasu. This is a good spot for dabbling ducks, and to listen for rails in the dense marshes.

Finally, for a different perspective, this area can be great birding from a kayak. You can’t scope distant loons or jaegers, but you can get up close and personal with gulls, swallows, terns, herons, etc. and you can bird otherwise inaccessible riparian. Public launch points are at Mesquite Bay North and just south of there (a well-marked, brand new launch), and at Castle Rock (but it takes a hike in with the boat).

How I Spent My Spring

Kayaking just north of Cape Havasu. The troll doll was a treasure found floating in the lake…

I hope this site guide helps folks find the best places to scan Lake Havasu’s north end. So, what’s your favorite place to scan Havasu?

About Lauren Harter

I live in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where I work as a field biologist and spend as much of the rest of my time as possible looking at (and listening to!) birds.
This entry was posted in Birding Locations, Havasu NWR, Lake Havasu, LCRV, Mohave County and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Birding the north end of Lake Havasu

  1. This is great Lauren thanks for posting. I loved seeing the kayak in there too, as I got one for Christmas and am eager to get it going in my birding repetoire.


  2. Laurence, that’s great! I adore kayak birding. I look forward to seeing your eye-level photos of waterbirds… 🙂

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