Laughlin River Run

  • By Nema Saadaie
  • 14 Jul, 2014

Laughlin, Nevada to Lake Havasu City, Arizona - 118 miles via jet ski

Growing up we were blessed with many river trips - everything from Laughlin, to Needles, Blythe and Lake Havasu. As teenagers and young adults we always fantasized about making the infamous river run - Laughlin to Lake Havasu by water. None of the parents were up for such an audacious adventure - there were just too many things that could go wrong. And who wants to ride a boat for 2 hours each way anyway? Now that I'm getting older the thought actually seems quite brutal.

Due to the large fuel tanks that boats have I knew it was easily possible for a boat to make the river run on a single tank of gas. Playing it safe some boats would be advised to pull over and get gas at one of the various refueling stations, but most boats can make the trip with ease. Again though, who wants to really spend that amount of time bouncing around on a boat?

On a jet ski I thought... now we're talking!
Off we go - had to wait till about 9:45am to take off so the water could rise downstream. Rocks plus jet skis are no bueno.
First, I had to figure out if this was possible. I'd heard of boaters making this journey, but never a jet ski. I assumed that gasoline would be the biggest obstacle  - I knew there aren't a lot of places to fill up along the river.

After a bit of research and math I determined it was indeed possible. Filling up at every possible stop was a must and if gasoline was unavailable downriver the trip was definitely a no go. I already knew the Avi Casino had a trusty refueling station and Topock Marina was a favorite place for lunch any time we were staying in Needles - 9 times out of 10 they had gas. I called Topock beforehand and their pumps were flowing. We even had Pirates Cove across the way as a backup plan. The adventure was on!

I've noted the route and gasoline options below for the adventurous.
Gasoline and lunch pitstop at Topock Route 66.
Almost 60 miles later.. here we are.
The infamous "Sand Bar."
Highway 40 crossing from California (right) into Arizona (left).
Laughlin River Run via Jet Ski

Total trip distance: 118 miles roundtrip
Time: 2.5 hours each way

Caution: The river gets shallow between Laughlin and Needles - it's manageable but you have to be careful.

Pro Tip: Do not attempt this trip before 9:30am. The water is almost always too shallow down river. We see people washed up on the rocks all the time. Sucking up a rock will also kill your craft for the day. Don't be "that guy." :)

By noon the water level is high enough that you never have to worry - problem is by that time... it's noon. If you leave earlier you'll want to keep an obvious eye out for rocks (as you should be doing anyway). Heading south from Laughlin you'll want to watch out for rocks about 1 mile after you depart. Stick to the houses along the left and you'll be fine. It gets shallow at points but you're completely okay.

Once you pass the big white telephone wire bridge you're free from rocks for a while. After you pass the Avi - about half way to Needles you'll encounter little patches of rock. I should probably describe them as islands of rock because that's exactly what they are. These are relatively easy to avoid if you're paying attention. When it doubt, coast at a steady speed. Once you begin to see houses along the river again you have zero concerns of rock for the rest of the way.

Bring:
  • A ton of water
  • Plenty of sunscreen
  • Lip balm
Starting from Laughlin headed south towards Lake Havasu your gasoline options are as follows:
  1. Avi Resort & Casino - 1/4 of the route to Lake Havasu
  2. Needles Marina - approx. half the route to Lake Havasu
  3. Pirates Cove Resort - approx. half the route to Lake Havasu
  4. Topock Marina - slightly more than half the route to Lake Havasu
There are zero gasoline options after the Needles/Pirates/Topock area so definitely fill up at one of the three - and do this headed both directions. Know your craft and don't mess around. If you're running low on gas use the closest option. Also, you might be surprised at how much gas you save by laying off the throttle.

Both Pirates Cove and Topock are worth a peek if you've never seen them (great options for lunch too):
  • Heading south towards Havasu - Pirates Cove is on your right-hand side, a good ways after you pass under the needles bridge. Topock is another good option and pretty much impossible to missing.
  • Heading south towards Havasu - Topock  is on your left-hand side, just past the entrance to Pirates Cove, right around the vicinity of the gorgeous I-40 bridge. The bridge is bright white you cannot miss it. Topock is tucked away on the left in it's own cove.
A wise idea to call ahead and ensure these places have gas before you make the trip. Running out of gas will make this adventure a nightmare real quick, not to mention very expensive. I've never seen the Avi Resort or Pirates Cove have gasoline unavailable. Due to being on the Arizona side, Topock does run out of gas on occasion, and especially so in and around the busy season.

The best time of year to make this adventure is late May, early June, or mid-late September. It's doable in July or August, but you're seriously treading along the lines of heat exhaustion if you aren't drinking plenty of fluids. Don't think that because you're on the river you're immune to things like that. We didn't watch our fluids like we should have and we were pretty much done by the time we made it back to Laughlin - if this were a hotter day (108+ like you'll get in July/August) we would have been destroyed.

At the end of it all this was an epic journey that we hope to do again some day. Respect the elements and be safe out there.
Almost back and absolutely fried. Awesome memorial just down river from Harrah's.

Recent Landscape Campaigns

By Nema Saadaie 14 Jul, 2014
Growing up we were blessed with many river trips - everything from Laughlin, to Needles, Blythe and Lake Havasu. As teenagers and young adults we always fantasized about making the infamous river run - Laughlin to Lake Havasu by water. None of the parents were up for such an audacious adventure - there were just too many things that could go wrong. And who wants to ride a boat for 2 hours each way anyway? Now that I'm getting older the thought actually seems quite brutal.

Due to the large fuel tanks that boats have I knew it was easily possible for a boat to make the river run on a single tank of gas. Playing it safe some boats would be advised to pull over and get gas at one of the various refueling stations, but most boats can make the trip with ease. Again though, who wants to really spend that amount of time bouncing around on a boat?

On a jet ski I thought... now we're talking!
By Nema Saadaie 13 May, 2013
Laughlin, Nevada was often times the destination of choice for my family growing up. One good night in the old Flamingo casino and my Dad was hooked - we were all pretty hooked actually. Miniature golf outside by the river, endless amounts of good food at the buffets, the water, it was always a good time. You would find me and my (then) seven year old brother in an arcade on most nights while my parents enjoyed the casino. Bad parents - I know! I joke with them how times have changed.

Throughout the numerous visits to Laughlin we would watch boats and jet skis run up and down the river from our hotel rooms. I always wondered what it would be like to get on one of "those things."

Then, one day it happened..

I had just turned 12 years old and a good friend of mine from the soccer team invited us all out to Laughlin for a family get-together. It's funny how you remember certain moments in life so vividly. I remember showing up to Lake Mojave (10-minutes from Laughlin), waiting for a bit as the adults and older kids got their turn, and then somehow.. someway.. my friend's Mom handed me the key to the jet ski. Patty was always the coolest - completely trusted all of us. I pretended I knew exactly what I was doing, nodded confidently at several instructions I was given, and off I went. Rather, off we went, because along came my younger brother. Bad parents! :)

And the love affair with me and the jet ski was surely on...
By Chasity Zamora 15 Feb, 2013
Most people who visit Las Vegas know about Red Rock Canyon, which offers great hikes within half an hour of the strip. However the Valley of Fire State Park always seems to get overlooked. If you are prepared to take about a one hour trip away from the strip you’ll find yourself in the magic that is Valley of Fire!
Share by: