Orange dust still hangs thick in the air. Pickups pulling sparkling fiberglass speedboats or
trailers of personal water craft are headed south and east. Theyʼre likely headed home to
Yuma. But around Fisherʼs Landing and Martinez Lake Resort, small camp fires begin to
light up the lengthening shadows and the smell of lighter fluid wafts from portable grills.
Another day has ended at Martinez Lake. Another night is just beginning.
A bevy of sunburned shoulders and tattoos float in and out of Martinez Lake Restaurant
and Cantina. Most of them belong to San Diegans who have spent the past eight or so
hours skiing the lake or playing horseshoes on a sand bar in the river.
As the evening revs up, everyone who has spent the day fishing, skiing or exploring the
river or Martinez Lake is choosing their activity for the night.
Band members from Cawtcheatin' are mingling with friends and family who came to see
The shuffleboard table is active as are the pool tables in between the restaurant and the
At the bar, San Diego resident Kimo Quance is explaining to a friend that the girl attached to
his (Kimoʼs) arm is not his girlfriend. “They are just hooking up for the weekend.”
Quance and his short-term girlfriend are slugging down tequila shots with some newfound
friends while waiting for the band to take the stage.
Mike Davison, another San Diegan, is sharing drinks with Quance. Davison and his friends
and family are veterans of the Lake Martinez scene.
“Iʼve been coming for over 20 years,” he says. “Whenever you work for a living you got to
go somewhere to relax,” he explains as to why they choose the lake over a San Diego
Davison and Vito DeʼAngelico, along with their wives will leave the bar when the younger
crowd starts taking over and head over to their rental cabin about 50 feet from the cantina
where they sit outside absorbing the eveningʼs activity from a relatively safe distance.
“Itʼs a good people watching place,” DeʼAngelico says. “We sit on the porch and watch
By 9:15 the crowd inside Martinez Lake Cantina is starting to become increasing louder
and the band is finding its stride.
“The gates are starting to open,” says bartender Norma Phillips. Phillips has been tending
the bar for the past nine years at Martinez Cantina. She knows the ebb and flow of the
crowds all too well.
“The summer crowd is party animals,” she says.
Phillips says a lot of the veterans started coming to Martinez Lake when the Arizona legal
drinking age was 19. And now they just keep coming.
But the rowdiness at the lake is always tempered by the ever-present Yuma County
Sheriffʼs deputies on weekend patrol. Careful not to let the lake turn into a free-for-all spring
break atmosphere, deputies are busy at night checking IDs, making sure golf carts are street
legal and generally watching out for the occasional bar fight or DWI.
Some say the weekend night life at Martinez Lake has been elevated due to an influx of
youth and money.
“Itʼs way wild compared to what is used to be,” says Brian Brown, another San Diegan in
his twenties. “Itʼs gen X.”
He says he will spend about $700 a weekend. “Our generation is all about money.”
Lingering around the bar Kimo Quance agrees with Brown. “Itʼs a fashion show,” he says
about the crowd on the lake. “You have to have the top sunglasses. The top boat. The top
women. Everything is top dollar. You got to be the guy that gets the second look. Thatʼs
what itʼs all about.”
Indeed, just the row of golf carts parked outside the cantina reflects a different attitude.
Expensive paint jobs, raised suspensions and tricked out engines are becoming the norm.
Not many of these carts will ever see the soft grass of a fairway.
And bartender Phillips notes the carts still have to be street legal with license and
But most revelers come to the lake, she says, because they donʼt have to worry too much
about drinking and driving.
Many of the rental cabins are within walking distance to the bar. Some of the tent sites and
other rental property may necessitate a short drive, but for the most part this village is a
mixture of cabins, trailers and expensive homes that are just launching pads for a day on the
water or a night in the bar.
By 10 p.m. the restaurant is emptying out and the lake crowd has fully shifted its energy
from the hot sun and soft sand bars to the cool recesses of the cantina and a hard dance
floor where they will stay until 1 a.m.
“Itʼs just fun,” sums up bartender Phillips while sizing up the cantina crowd earlier in the
evening. “When they get up the next morning, they start all over again.”