One of the biggest misconceptions about living in the desert is that there is no water to be found in the area. Deserts are known to be all cactus, sand, and sun, but here in Arizona, we have many bodies of water, from large lakes to spring-fed watering holes high in the mountains. When it is time to cool off with a swim, relax on a fishing trip, or rev up your speed or powerboat for an afternoon of fun, Arizonans know that they can visit their favorite spots to splash around in the desert in under three hours.
Boating is one of the most enjoyable ways to beat the summer heat, and many Southern Arizonans make the most of the nearby lakes so often that they invest in their jet skis, speedboats, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, runabouts, and cruisers. When it’s hot out, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to get out onto the water for some relief.
If you are ready to spend some time in the beautiful blue water, you will fall head-over-heels in love with these big, beautiful Southern Arizona lakes. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
Northeast of Phoenix, right in the heart of Superstition Wilderness and not too far from the ever-popular Salt River, you’ll find Apache Lake. This lake is made from a nearby dam and is one of the most scenic, breathtaking lakes in Arizona. It is 17-miles long and is the perfect spot for fishing, water skiing, and even camping.
About an hour or so south of Tucson, you’ll find Arivaca Lake and Wildlife Viewing Area, a 90-acre reservation along scenic Ruby Road. With only a single boat ramp, this lake is the place to get away from it all and get back to remote fishing and relaxation. The Arizona Fish and Wildlife Department keeps this lake stocked for fishing, so bring your fishing license and catch your fill in peace.
Surrounded by picturesque desert mountains that will make you snap photo after photo, Bartlett Lake is always popular, especially in the summer months (read: arrive early!). These pristine blue waters, and at their largest, runs 12-miles along with 2,800 acres of the surface for you and your family to enjoy. Most popular for its jet ski activity, Bartlett Marina is ready to serve your water sports needs with jet ski rentals and launch pads.
As far as boats go, as long as your boat doesn’t break the noise level (82 decibels), you’re good to go for an afternoon of water fun.
Another Salt River-area Lake, Canyon is in the middle of a high-mountain range area, making it a tucked away lake that’s surrounded by some stunning desert foliage and wildlife. Canyon Lake is best known for its red rock walls and fabulous scenery, and if you can get there at the right time, you may even have this lake all to yourself for a while. Canyon Lake also boasts a whole lot of shoreline (about 28 miles of it!), so bring a picnic basket, some blankets, and spend the afternoon relaxing.
Far and away from the most popular lake in the Phoenix area, Lake Pleasant is ready for you to dive head-first into water sports, swimming, fishing, and partying by the water. Kayaking will lead you into mesmerizing coves, surrounding wildlife, and an extensive shoreline that will keep everyone in your party having fun all day long. There are lots of places to rent a cabin or house too, so Lake Pleasant is great for a family weekend you’ll never forget.
An hour and a half south of Tucson in Nogales, Arizona, you’ll find Patagonia Lake in Patagonia Lake State Park. A fishing lover’s dream, Patagonia Lake is long and flat and ready to impress as you catch your limit.
Though camping is a premium in the summertime, in the Spring, Patagonia Lake is a quiet patch of beautiful water in the middle of the State Park. Take your boat, don your swimsuit, and spend the day enjoying one of the most pristine lakes around.
In Tonto National Forest, northeast of the Superstition Mountains, lies Roosevelt Lake, the third-largest lake in Arizona. Roosevelt Lake was once the world’s largest man-made lake, but today it still stands as a fantastic fishing spot that draws in visitors from all around the world. Most notable for its bass fishing and beaches, Roosevelt Lake has several marinas, its campgrounds, and a wildlife refuge area that attracts some of Tonto National Forest’s unique and fascinating creatures.
Rose Canyon Lake
Right here on Tucson’s Mount Lemmon lies a lake and campground that is always fresh, crisp, and welcoming, Rose Canyon Lake. Located in Coronado National Forest, this lake is perfect for anglers and hiking enthusiasts, especially because the state keeps this popular 7-acre fishing hole fully stocked. The surrounding ponderosa pines make this high-elevation lake a must-do for anyone living in Tucson, and it is a quiet location that is a popular bird-watching site.
Northwest of Scottsdale and Mesa, Arizona, Saguaro Lake is a 10-mile long stretch of water that draws in everyone in search of a cool retreat from the summer heat. With water skiing, kayaking, fishing, jet skiing, and sailing, Saguaro Lake is famous for everyone around the area. The lake is naturally divided by a narrow canyon, allowing the boat-accessible camping and large water surface to stay separate for ideal spacing for fun and relaxation.