I bet you thought the West Coast was over there by Los Angeles and San Diego. Well, that may be true, but Arizona also has a "west coast," or at least that's how Arizonans see it. However, Arizona's west coast is formed not by the Pacific Ocean, but by the Colorado River. Separating Arizona from California and Nevada are 340 miles of Colorado River waters, most of which are impounded in three huge reservoirs -- Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Lake Havasu -- that provide water and electricity to such sprawling Southwest boomtowns as Phoenix and Las Vegas.

It is because of all this water that the region has come to be known as Arizona's West Coast, and it is to the waters of this inland "coast" that boaters, water-skiers, and anglers head throughout the year.

In some ways, Arizona's West Coast is superior to California's Pacific coastline. Although there aren't many waves on this stretch of the Colorado River, both the weather and the water are warmer than California's. Consequently, watersports of all types are extremely popular, and the fishing is some of the best in the country. Due to convolutions in the landscape, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave, and Lake Mead also offer thousands of miles of shoreline.

While the Colorado River has always been the lifeblood of this rugged region, it was not water that first attracted settlers. A hundred years ago, prospectors ventured into this sun-baked landscape hoping to find gold in the mountains flanking the river. Some actually hit pay dirt, and mining towns sprang up overnight, only to be abandoned a few years later when the gold ran out. Today, Oatman is the most famous of these mining boomtowns, but it has too many people and wild burros to be called a ghost town.


People are still venturing into this region in hopes of striking it rich, but now they head across the river from Bullhead City, Arizona, to the casinos in Laughlin, Nevada, where a miniature version of Las Vegas has grown up on the banks of the Colorado.

Laughlin and Bullhead City aren't the only towns in this area with an abundance of waterfront accommodations. As with any warm coastline, Arizona's West Coast is lined with lakefront resorts, hotels, RV parks, and campgrounds. For the most part, it's a destination for desert residents, so you won't find any hotels or resorts even remotely as upscale or expensive as those in Phoenix, Tucson, or Sedona. There are, however, plenty of houseboats for rent. These floating vacation homes are immensely popular with families and groups. With a houseboat, you can get away from the crowds, dropping anchor and kicking back when you find a remote cove, the best fishing, or the most spectacular views. You can even houseboat to London Bridge, which is no longer falling down, but rather bridges a backwater of Lake Havasu and is now one of Arizona's biggest tourist attractions.