Awesome Arizona: 5 Lakes & Rivers

When one thinks of Arizona, lakes and river don’t readily come to mind. Expanses of naturally occurring water, the kind that runs freely or accumulates in quantities sufficient to support a variety of users, are in short supply in a desert environment.

These five destinations have the water necessary for all manner of water-related activities.

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake along Apache Trail east of Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Lake along Apache Trail east of Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most scenic of the Salt River-fed lakes, Canyon abounds with the steep walls and cliffs its name suggests. The beauty more than makes up for its comparatively small size. Rent anything from a speedboat to a kayak to enjoy 950 surface acres of watery goodness. Tuck into a secluded cove and fish for bass, trout, and many other kinds of fish, or take a leisurely cruise and marvel at the scenery.

Idyllic year-round weather makes Canyon Lake a great destination for all watersports and camping enthusiasts. When ready for a break, pick a spot along the 28 miles of shoreline and enjoy a picnic, or stop at the Lakeside Restaurant and Cantina for a casual meal.

Colorado River

The Colorado River from Bullhead City to Lake Havasu City, Parker, and beyond is known for its languid flow and is perfect for all manner of watercraft, from motorboats to inner tubes. The slow, steady release of water from dams upstream keep the water the perfect temperature. Dozens of businesses along the river, as well as near Lake Havasu, will be happy to rent you any craft that will make you happy.

Kick back on sandy lake beaches, marvel at the London Bridge, or explore Lake Havasu’s 60 miles of navigable waterways. Explore breathtaking landscape on memorable land and water tours.

Granite Dells provide a scenic backdrop as you kayak or canoe along Watson Lake. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granite Dells provide a scenic backdrop as you kayak or canoe along Watson Lake. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watson Lake & Granite Dells

Perhaps you prefer your water with a view. It’s hard to beat the rocky sentinels standing guard along Watson Lake.

A Prescott-area gem, the Granite Dells consist of exposed bedrock and large boulders of granite that have eroded into an unusual lumpy, rippled appearance. Worn smooth by the elements, the Dells provide a scenic backdrop as you kayak or canoe along the calm surface of the lake. And when the light is right and the surface is mirror-like, it’s a photo op like no other.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available.

Lynx Lake

Near Prescott, Lynx Lake Recreation Area offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities including hiking and camping. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near Prescott, Lynx Lake Recreation Area offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities including hiking and camping. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the cool pines just outside of Prescott, Lynx Lake Recreation Area offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities that includes hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, boating, and picnicking. If you’re looking for a cool, calm, and relaxing day, this small body of water offers some of the best fishing in the area.

Nestled amid ponderosa pines and claiming temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below those in the desert, Lynx Lake holds rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie, and more. Even better, its waters are limited to electronic- or people-powered watercraft, perfect for fishing or napping. Paddle boats and canoes are seasonally available for rental.

Patagonia Lake

Tucked away in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona is a hidden treasure. The campground overlooks a 265-acre man-made lake where anglers catch crappie, bass, bluegill, trout, and catfish. At an elevation of 3,750 feet and adjacent to the Sonoita Creek Natural Area, the park becomes a year-round haven with 105 campsites with a picnic table, a fire ring/grill, water, and 20/30/50-amp electric service; select sites also have a ramada. A dump station is centrally located in the park.

A paradise for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts Patagonia Lake State Park is an ideal place to find whitetail deer roaming the hills and great blue herons walking the shoreline. Hikers can stroll along the beautiful creek trail and see a variety of birds such as the canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, elegant trogon, black vulture, and several species of hummingbirds.

Camping, hiking, and birding are superb at Patagonia Lake State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping, hiking, and birding are superb at Patagonia Lake State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Saint Augustine

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