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Lake Havasu Lighthouses Shine A Light On Boater Safety
Here’s a trivia question: Which city in the U.S. has the most lighthouses? You might think it would be somewhere in Maine or maybe the San Francisco Bay Area. But you’d be wrong. It’s actually Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Your definition of “lighthouse” may need to expand a little bit here. The 25 lighthouses around Lake Havasu on the border of Arizona and California are all smaller replicas of real lighthouses in the U.S. But make no mistake, these replicas are fully functional.
“Our lights are coast guard approved and they are navigational lights for safety up and down our lake and around our island,” said Lyndia LeCours, treasurer with the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club, the all-volunteer group that creates and maintains the lighthouses.
LeCours said the club’s founders created the first replica in 2000 because they were concerned about boating safety on the lake.
“It’s very very dark at night here,” LeCours said. “We don’t even have street lights other than regular stop lights.”
Before the lighthouses, Arizona Game and Fish had some range lights around the lake. Field Supervisor Deanna Pfleger said the lighthouses helped fill in the gaps.
“The lake is undeveloped, for the most part, in a lot of locations,” Pfleger said. “And on those dark moonless nights, those lights do a lot to help boaters navigate, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with the lake.”
It's an experience Ron Liesen knows well. He’s been living on the lake since 1967.
“And until you’ve been lost after dark, 10 or 15 miles down the lake, you don’t realize how much you need things like lighthouses. You’d just get down there, and there’s no full moon, you’re stuck,” Liesen said.
Thousands of boats sail along the 30-mile stretch of water during peak season, within the ring of these blinking lights. Replicas of West Coast lighthouses line the western shore, while East Coast replicas sit on the eastern side, and Great Lakes lighthouses are on the island. They stand from 12 to 30 feet tall, dotted with miniature windows.
“It gives you a certain feeling of safety, and they help provide navigation at night,” Liesen said.
It costs a few thousand dollars to construct one, and the upkeep can get expensive. LeCours said those coast guard-approved lenses are about a thousand dollars a pop. And sometimes they can’t stand the heat.
“They are solar-powered. Our only problem is they’re good for 122 degrees,” LeCours said. “We have 125-degree days from time to time.”
That’s the downside to desert lighthouses. But many residents feel it’s important to keep the lights on. That’s why Ron Liesen is sponsoring the latest addition. It’s a replica of Pigeon Point in California. For him, it’ll brighten up the shore in more ways than one — he’s dedicating it in memory of family members who’ve passed.
“It’ll be here forever. And it’ll be something that we can look at and say hey, there’s our lighthouse. The lighthouse is very visible from the lake, so going past we’ll be able to say hi,” Liesen said.
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse replica was dedicated Tuesday morning, bringing the total to 25. And the club plans to add one more within the next year.