Arizona conjures up hot and dry images, but where dams pause water on its way to Phoenix, people play. Many lakes fill with boats on weekends; get there early or the gates may be closed.
Four Salt River impoundments offer scenic canyon walls, Southwest expanses, coves and caves begging exploration, great fishing and lots of wildlife.
Saguaro Lake, 40 miles northeast of Phoenix, has 22 miles of shoreline. For a novel experience, visit the boat-access-only Bagley Flat Campground. Canyon Lake, smallest at 950 acres, is about 40 miles east of Phoenix. Apache Lake is just up the scenic Apache Trail.
Roosevelt Lake, which clocks in at about a two-hour drive, is farthest from Phoenix; its 21,000 acres are served by several marinas.
Lake Pleasant, 10,000 acres of water just 45 minutes from downtown, has 14 lanes in two ramps facilities, with parking for 700-plus vehicles and trailers. Pleasant Harbor Marina has recreational vehicle sites, a clubhouse, a heated pool and a spa.
Bartlett Lake, on the Verde River, is 30 miles northwest of the city. Want more? Lakes Havasu and Parker on the Colorado River draw go-fasts in numbers unrivaled anywhere but Miami.
While desert living is attractive in its own right, it’s easy to find a bargain home just minutes to a couple of hours from these boating oases.
Need to Know
Dream Boat: Kawasaki Ultra 300X — Easily trailerable to all the various lakes.
Fun Fact: The Apache Trail, a passable but thrilling route through breathtaking scenery, leads from Canyon Lake to Apache Lake to Roosevelt Lake. Watch for javelinas, black bears, mountain sheep and eagles!