The Sonoran Desert is far from barren! Surrounded by six lakes, Phoenix offers plenty of opportunity for aquatic voyages. From stand up paddle boarding to water skiing, the possibilities are as vast as the Arizona horizon. Here are some suggestions on the more unique locations and activities on offer at the Phoenix Lakes.
There would be no Phoenix without the Salt River. Running 200 miles from the White Mountains in northern Arizona to Phoenix’s southwestern edge, the river feeds many of the area’s lakes. It’s one of the state’s most historically significant formations, having been settled and dammed by the prehistoric Hohokam Indians between 500 AD and 1450 AD. Their Salt River canal system laid the foundation for today’s modern waterways and is one of the main reasons the Sonoran Desert was made inhabitable. River trips with Arizona Outback Adventures are the best way to explore the noteworthy stream. Half-day rafting and kayaking tours take you through lush banks and towering cliffs – keep your eyes peeled for wild horses and bald eagles!
Tempe Town Lake
Flying in to Phoenix, one of the first landmarks you see from the sky is Tempe Town Lake. Visitors are surprised to see the two-mile stretch, which is located right in the middle of the action. The manmade lake is one of the area’s most accessible and popular locales for water sports – rowing, pedalling, and kayaking among them. Aquatic adventures can be as laidback or hands-on as you like. For a quiet experience, rent an electric surrey and enjoy a picnic out in the open. On a bright, clear day – of which there are many in the Valley of the Sun – the blue sky looks to melt into the water, where white sails and colourful boats dot the lake’s expanse.
Named for the Sonoran Desert’s iconic Saguaro cactus, which only grows here, Saguaro Lake regularly plays host to boaters. They flock here not just for the calm waters, but also for the inspirational surroundings. Though Saguaro Lake is located just 20 minutes from Mesa, it sits on the southernmost tip of the Tonto National Forest, the fifth largest of its kind in the country. Its variety of vegetation spans almost every type you’ll spot in the state. Pine-forested mountains in the north give way to cactus-studded, craggy cliffs by the time Tonto reaches Saguaro’s shoreline. The lake’s sprawling 10-mile range affords space for more high-octane exploits like wakeboarding and water skiing.
Canyon Lake is less than an hour’s drive from Phoenix. A nature enthusiast’s dream, the lake runs along unspoiled ancient rock formations and calming coves. Besides water sports, Canyon Lake is known for its wildlife spotting opportunities. Deer, Javelina and Big Horn sheep roam freely among countless bird species. Fishing is big here, too, namely for bass and trout. Hit the sparkling waters with No Snow, a stand up paddleboarding company that rents everything you need for a day out under the sun. Or, join one of No Snow’s many group treks. There’s sunset happy hour, moonlight paddle, and even sunrise excursions.
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Have you explored the Phoenix Lakes? What did you do there? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Katarina Kovacevic
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About the author: KatarinaKatarina Kovacevic
Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer, author of The Food Lovers’ Guide To Phoenix & Scottsdale, and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appeared in publications like American Spa, The New York Post, Travel + Leisure online, and more. Follow her travels on Twitter @Little_K and Instagram @Little_K_Kata.