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Boaters get slow start at state parks

April 7, 2019

After months of wet winter weather and cooler temperatures, Lake Havasu State Park has had much lower visitation than in previous years. But as summer approaches, Havasu could be in for a big boating season.

According to Lake Havasu State Park Manager Dan Roddy, the park saw about 12,000 fewer visitors throughout the first quarter of 2019 than one year ago. From January through March, the park saw 160,000 visitors, compared to about 172,000 visitors during the same period in 2018.

“The vast majority of that has been weather-related,” Roddy said. “We obviously had a wet season, and average high temperatures have been about eight degrees cooler. It’s definitely had a ripple effect, and we know when we talk to event organizers — their numbers were less than they’d hoped for.”

With temperatures in the low 80s this month, however, boaters are already beginning to stir.

“It’s starting to get pretty hectic over here,” Roddy said. “On March 18, one of the first 80-degree days of the year, we had more than 1,100 day-users – and that was on a Monday. People who come to Havasu want to be out on the water, and if they can, they will. If the weather cooperates, this boating season is going to be very busy.”

Jack Saranpa has been boating on Lake Havasu fore more than 30 years. Saranpa is the owner of Havasu’s Sun Country Marine dealership, and also expects a busy season to come.

“This season is going to be on fire,” Saranpa said. “Right now I think boaters are biding their time. As the weather gets warmer, it’s going to be like opening a can of cat food. The weather has a way of exciting people, and reminding them that summer is coming.”

Lake Havasu State Park is one of several on the Colorado River. Others, including Buckskin Mountain State Park and Cattail Cove State Park, saw fewer boaters during the first quarter of 2019, but the number of campers at Lake Havasu and Cattail Cove State Parks has increased.

“At Lake Havasu State Park, camping is up by about 10,000 over the same time last year, but day-use was down,” said Arizona State Parks Chief of Communications Michelle Thompson. “Visitation overall at Cattail Cove State Park was up by 2.5 percent, but Buckskin Mountain State Park was lower.”

Thompson says State Parks officials are hoping for a surge in visitors to Arizona’s parks as the temperature rises.

“We’ve had record-breaking attendance over the past four years, so we anticipate it will level off at some point,” Thompson said. “We continue to work to get the word out about our amazing destinations, including those on the Colorado River, to people throughout the state.”

Thompson said factors affecting visitation may also include ongoing renovation projects at state parks, including new restroom and shower facilities that are being constructed at Lake Havasu and Cattail Cove State Parks, and a new park store at Buckskin Mountain State Parks.

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