Parker and Parker Dam, California

If you ever want to see how vast California really is, get yourself out on a desert road. We had about seventy miles to go until reaching our final destination when, I noticed how desolate of an area we were driving. It was an awe-inspiring amount of wide-open space with a road that spanned for miles.

No cars to be seen, no buildings, structures… nothing.

It was a Friday morning and we were on our way to Parker, California on Highway 177.

Parker, California is across the river from Parker, Arizona so I was a few football fields away from standing in another state to qualify for writing about California. However, I will intermix a little Arizona in, as there are a few things that you have to see that are just across the border from where we were staying.

This part of the Colorado river is designed for only one thing, playing on the water!

There is resort after resort, storage units for boats or other water craft, and RV storage facilities.

The resorts are set up for RV’s, campers, or any other mode of camping you desire. Intermixed in these resorts are privately owned tiny homes and in the case of our place, a few bungalows for rent. All, right on the river.

Now, by bungalow, I mean a small trailer like structure. There was nothing fancy about it but, it had heat, shower, kitchen, TV, you know all the comforts of home without any form of elegance.

Across the river was another resort and further down on that side, there were nice homes with docks.

As I mentioned, river life is all about having fun, it is hot in the summer, very hot. Climbing in temperatures well over hundred degrees, flocking to the water is the course of the day.

However, it wasn’t summer. It was the first week in December and the days were warm at 65-69F, but at night it was a thirty-degree shift down to the forties.

So yes, we used the heater.

The nice part of it all is that there were virtually no boats on the water, I believe I saw five total during the four days we were there. So, it made for a very quiet trip with serene mornings and peaceful afternoons. It is, however, understandably busier with much more activity and noise in the summer.

The town of Parker with all of the restaurants, hotels, gas stations, stores, etc. is on the Arizona side of the river. Where we were is actually called Parker Dam, California. We were only a few miles from the dam and once you cross over the river, you are in Arizona.

Built in 1937 and at 320 feet high, the dam itself is fascinating as you can see both sides of the water. This mighty structure is filled to the brim from the river on one side, while on the other side, it spans far below. It is amazing to see how this structure can hold back so much water.

We did venture across to go twenty miles to Lake Havasu for the holiday boat parade that was taking place that weekend. Although, not in California, I have to mention it as an excursion as you just have to visit the London Bridge. Yes, it is the real London Bridge.

Here is a snippet about the bridge from the Lake Havasu Chamber of commerce:

In 1962, it was discovered that the London Bridge was “falling down,” sinking into the Thames because it was not adequate for the increase in traffic. The City of London decided to put the 130-year old bridge up for auction, and construct a new one in its place. Robert P. McCulloch, founder of Lake Havasu City, AZ, submitted the winning bid for $2,460,000 in 1968. McCulloch spent another $7million to move the London Bridge to Lake Havasu City which took a total of three years. 

As mentioned, It is something to see if you are in the area and quite a sight all dressed up for Christmas. There were seventy boats participating in the parade while the whole area was overflowing with holiday decorations, lights, and spirit. Of course the whole town was there too, but that made it even more interesting…cue people watching.


Twenty miles back to Parker Dam, the bright lights have disappeared only to be replaced with pure darkness. With no city lights to speak of, the resort had rolled up its carpets for the evening and all of the residents were not to be heard from.

In the winter, all the retirees who get away from colder climates come here to stay. Party animals they are not.

The next day, we visited a few friends in two other resorts nearby. Each one had a feature that we wished was had in all. As an example, one had a great pool with bamboo thatched umbrellas scattered about, giving it a tropical locale atmosphere. The other had a cozy riverside restaurant and a sandy beach.

The one we were staying was more rustic but, I feel had the best view. Each one was unique.

I was surprised on how well I liked the area and the topography. If you squinted your eyes and imagined the pointed mountain structures to be vibrant green, you could almost see Tahiti. I may be pressing that a little, but the jagged peaks added such a uniqueness on each side of the water and the palm trees contributed to the appeal.

The water is cold this time of year yet, cool and refreshing in the summer against the hundred-degree temperatures.

In the mornings, the river was glassy and calm with not a wisp of wind. With the risk of sounding like a Guru, this tranquility and peacefulness can be very purifying for your soul.

Although the sun wasn’t out a lot of our trip, it did peak through a few times just in time for a vibrant desert sunset.

It is a laid back life for sure. A great long weekend get-a-way that we recommend.

However, in summer the river is filled with boats so, peace and quiet might not be the order of the day.

It is a yin and yang type of place that I have seen at its busiest in the past, but this time I was glad to see it in its dormant stage and so will you.

Check out any of the resorts in the area for vacation rentals by owners or small resort owned cottages/bungalows.

Story: Debbie Colwell

Photos: Debbie Colwell

River Sunset Photo: Patti Serrano

Parting Shots: Not in California but a quick drive away. Golden Marshes.



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