Discovering Lakes in Arizona

There’s a saying in America’s southwest … “Whiskey’s fer drink’n and water’s fer fight’n over!” In a nutshell, water in the western United States is a precious commodity worth fighting over and fight they did back in the 1800’s. Gosh, even today, states continue to fight over water rights all the time, but instead of gunshots being slung, you’ll find attorney’s slinging water rights paperwork. Yeah, there’s beaucoup bucks in water rights … take note any young aspiring attorney.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I grew up in the Midwest where water was never an issue. Sure, we occasionally experienced a summer drought when communities would implement water usage restrictions. Such restrictions were usually centered around limiting homeowners to the frequency of lawn sprinkling or car washing.

With an abundance of lakes and rivers in the Midwest, Al and I had dreams of one day owning lake front property. Oh, we came close a couple of times buying something in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but eventually logic ruled and our dream was always put on the back burner. Ah, such young responsible adults we were!

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona

Goldwater Lake, Prescott, Arizona – this lake reminds me of northern Minnesota

Gunflint Lake Minnesota

Al paddling in northern Minnesota – 1988

Once we moved west, that dream became even more elusive considering lake front property in the western United States is a rarity. Most lakes are used for water storage … reservoirs. Maintaining a clean water source is top priority in a land where water is a precious commodity. Considering water is not taken for granted in Arizona, it makes a body of water that much more special and appreciated.

Because of our love of water, lakes in particular, Al and I enjoy exploring and searching out those bodies of water whenever we have the opportunity.

Lakes around Prescott, Arizona

Within a thirty minute drive or less from our RV Park here in Prescott Valley, we have access to four lovely little lakes. All allow kayaking as well as offer picnic areas and a great trail system. I used to think Watson Lake was my favorite lake around here until I discovered the other lakes in the area.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Last summer I spent a great deal of time hiking around the unique boulder laden landscape titled Granite Dells. Willow Lake and Watson Lake are both man-made reservoirs located within the Granite Dells area of Prescott and the scenery is so unique that it calls for regular visits.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I loved hiking around this fascinating landscape – up and down the various trails, exploring all the nooks and crannies around every boulder until …. until the snake encounter. Yeah, the sound of a rattle from a Diamondback can get the heart pounding and quickly take the joy out of any hike. After that experience, it was time for me to search out a few different trail options.

Once I discovered Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake, I became smitten with them. Talk about a contrast of landscapes. Where as Watson Lake and Willow Lake are surrounded by a mostly barren, lumpy rock landscape, Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake are nestled in a forest of wonderfully scented tall pine trees providing some nice cooling shade.

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona

Once again these are man-made reservoirs serving as water storage, but also offer some nice recreation for the public’s enjoyment.

Lynx Lake was the perfect spot for my friend, Rachael, and me to meet for lunch and catch up on our travels. I met Rachael a couple of years ago up in Arco, Idaho. She was on a one year solo RV adventure, and we had an immediate connection once we started talking cameras, which then lead to a couple of photographic outings together. Ever since our Idaho connection, we’ve stayed in touch. Rachael has since given up the RV life and now lives full-time in Sedona, Arizona … not too far from me which made meeting in Prescott easily doable.

picnic at Lynx Lake Prescott Arizona

enjoying a picnic lunch at Lynx Lake with a friend

During our Idaho time together, Rachael had made lunch for me, and now this was the perfect opportunity for me to reciprocate. Once again, our cameras were brought along for the outing and plenty of shutter time was shared after our tummies were filled. Even Rachael was pleasantly surprised with the beautiful lakes seen around Prescott.

Although these four little lakes might not be impressive to the average Midwesterner, they are a treasure to an Arizonan. I for one appreciate it when these reservoirs are full of water and pristine. I make it a point to take full advantage of their beauty while they’re in my current backyard … okay, I’m not saying they’re literally in my backyard considering it takes me at least twenty minutes to drive to any one of them, but hey, in Arizona I’ll take whatever kind of water front I can. The short drive is worth those water views any day.

Lake Pleasant Phoenix Arizona

Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

More Arizona Lakes worth noting …

Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona, we spend several months every year during the winter hanging around the Phoenix valley. That has given us the perfect opportunity to search out and explore many of the scenic lakes (rather reservoirs) in the area.

Lake Pleasant is located on the far northwest side of the valley and used to be a regular camping spot for us. The sunsets here are some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever seen. Absolutely stunning!

Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake are all located on the far east side of the valley in the Tonto National Forest. This string of reservoirs are all connected via the Salt River and each body of water offers unique scenery and plenty of boating recreation.

Salt River Arizona

The Salt River – photographed below Saguaro Lake.

Bartlett Reservoir is located to the far northeast of Scottsdale and also within the Tonto National Forest. This lovely body of water takes a little longer to get to from the heart of Phoenix but so worth the drive, and if you don’t need internet connection, you can enjoy camping right along her beautiful shores.

Eastern Arizona –

We still have yet to spend much time in Arizona’s White Mountains. We enjoyed a brief taste last August during a short visit with our friends in Pinetop. This eastern side of the state reminds me of parts of Colorado. No, you won’t find any tall majestic mountains here, but you will find a landscape of large hills or little mountains surrounded by pine forests and dotted with lakes. Yep, there are lakes all over and stocked with enough fish to satisfy most anglers.

White Mountains in eastern Arizona

White Mountains – eastern Arizona

This is a beautiful part of Arizona that should not be missed and begs for more exploring on our part. But do note, this is a summer destination for RVers and plan on sharing this landscape with lots of desert dwellers who like to spend weekends in the White Mountains. The mountains serve as the perfect escape from the extreme summer heat found in the Phoenix valley.

Northern Arizona –

In the northern section of Arizona, you’ll find the city of Flagstaff and the Coconino National Forest. Once again, the forested landscape offers a bunch of little lakes, some of which I’d say are more like an over-sized pond than a lake, but hey it’s Arizona and water is water …. don’t dis the body of water. We’ll take it any which way we can … pond, lake, river, creek … water is life!

Lake Powell

Lake Powell at the Arizona – Utah border

But if size matters to you, than it’s time to head to the Arizona-Utah border and the shores of Lake Powell. Here you can boat to your heart’s content or until you run out of gas, which happens to boaters all the time. Yeah, it’ll literally take you days to boat the length of Lake Powell and a boat load of gasoline too.

Lake Havasu Arizona

boating with friends on Lake Havasu, Arizona

Western Arizona –

If Lake Powell’s a little too big for your taste, then Lake Havasu on the Arizona-California border might be more to your liking. We’re fortunate to have friends that live in Lake Havasu City and own a pontoon boat. Oh yeah – loved getting out on the water.

Lake Havasu

Yep, I’m a happy camper out boating on Lake Havasu.  Photo taken mid February. So while folks in the east were shoveling snow, I was enjoying a day on the water… no coat needed!

Southern Arizona –

Oh my goodness, I haven’t even touched on the southern half of the state where we really enjoyed Patagonia State Park and the lovely water setting seen there. So many more lakes to discover!

Hot and Dusty …

In a state where the words hot and dusty are used often, it’s no wonder the diverse landscape and fresh bodies of water are such a delightful surprise to many a visitor. I know all these picturesque lakes have been a fun and fantastic adventure discovering during our travels throughout the state.

No surprise our wheels have barely rolled across the Arizona state line this past year with so much picturesque scenery to discover and still so much more to see. Now if only I could figure out a way to fold up that pontoon boat and store it in the belly of the RV …  then I’d really be in tall cotton!

Lake Powell

Camping near water is the next best thing to owning lake front property – oh yeah, a gal could get used to a lake front yard like this!

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60 thoughts on “Discovering Lakes in Arizona

  1. Hi Ingrid!

    Your pictures are amazing. I am a native resident of the White Mountains of Arizona’s and I have to agree, it is definitely a place a place worth visiting. Even in the winter you can find some spectacular scenery, water and wild life. Although I would reccommend staying in a hotel or a cabin during the cold months, it would be tough in an rv like you said. There are cabins in Greer that are open all year long so people can enjoy the summers as well as the winters. I recently stayed at a cabin there and the experience was amazing! Hopefully you make it up there to do some more exploring!

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    • Thanks for stopping by Stephanie. What little we’ve seen of the White Mountains, we love, and hope to go back for more explorations. Although, I think we’ll stick to the summers. Once we left Colorado, my interest in cold and snow waned which is why Phoenix is the perfect place to winter. Arizona offers a little bit of everything!

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  2. Pingback: Practical guide to the most scenic lakes in Arizona – AZ Wonders

    • I’m afraid if I want to avoid humidity, lake front property may be out of the question. The humidity in AZ has been horrible lately… lots of rain. But keep looking for that land and let me know 😁 And yes, you could spend a year meandering around Arizona and not see everything OR get bored!

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  3. we used to go to Arizona when I was a kid many moons ago and I remember clearly lake pleasant I swam there and my brother got to borrow someones wave runner to ride the water I wanted to but mybrother being the hog he is used up all the time allotted. anyway I had an old photo of me and my brother standing next to a sugaro cactus and the lake behind us. don’t know where it is right now but if I find it maybe I will put it on my blog wisdom of the ages.

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  4. We do love our lakes in Arizona. Goldwater and Watson are favorites. We take our Midwest guests to Watson Lake as they have never seen such different kind of beauty. Goldwater reminds me of a lake high up in the Colorado Mountains.

    I do believe more and more people are putting in turf grass instead of watering their grass in AZ. Or they go the all gravel yard route.

    Nice post!

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    • Unfortunately, the lakes around Prescott are at very low levels this year and not very photogenic. However, the monsoon season is in full swing and we received over 2″ of rain the other day and rain 5 days straight. Very eventful weather and the humidity is comparable to the Midwest 🤨

      My son’s yard is all gravel and pavers with plants that don’t require much water and I see more folks around Phx going in that direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, Ingrid, I have to say thank you for the education and for addressing my misconception about Arizona – which was that the area is too dry to sustain such large and beautiful bodies of water. It’s apparent from some other comments that I’m not the only one who was pleasantly surprised. Our travels in Arizona have been limited and you’ve just provided a number of good reasons to expand them. Watson Lake looks very intriguing and, I must say, you’re welcome to cater a picnic of mine any time!

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    • You have an open invitation anytime to invite yourself to a picnic that I’ll host. No doubt we’d have a great time.
      Arizona is a beautiful and diverse place that is full of unexpected surprises. We’ve loved discovering some of these hidden gems.

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  6. Who knew there were so many lakes in hot and dry Arizona? These photos and experiences are fantastic, Ingrid. I’d love a nice lakeside spot for our Zesty as well. 🙂 Mark is not too fond of lakes, preferring the ocean, but anything scenic and water-related works for me. We hope to spend a big chunk of time in Arizona this winter. Hopefully, we will get to check out some of these beauties mentioned in your post.

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  7. Oh I loved your lake pictures. Living in the SW does make you appreciate water. I laughed at myself when we were in Ithaca, NY a few weeks ago because if I’d seen even the tiniest pour over, of which there were SO many, or water falling over a ledge in UT of AZ or NM I would have taken dozens of photos but there I didn’t bother with most things under 10ft!

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  8. So many lakes, so little time we spent in Arizona. Too bad we will be in the east this winter so I guess checking out those other lakes will just have to wait. Who knew there are so many lakes in the desert!

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  9. Count us among those who were surprised to learn how many lakes there are in the desert. We had no idea. But Lake Havasu and Lake Powell were just gorgeous and we’re looking forward to exploring more of lakes when we return next winter. Thanks for the info on all of these. I expect we’ll try to check several of them out. Beautiful photos as always!

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  10. The biggest joy of RV Living is that you can live water front whenever you choose to, something often out of everyday living budget as a permanent abode. And when you tire of being water front, you can up wheels and move on to a forest if you choose. Love that picnic table setting, it was picture perfect.

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    • Agree – the home on wheels allows us to enjoy lake front property in a variety of locations. Always fun discovering new places and diverse scenery. And it was a perfect picnic!

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    • Yep, you and I do like our water and every time you post a pic of your lovely home, I turn a little green 😆 Oh well, since I intend to stay in the west, the home on wheels allows me access to all the these wonderful lakes!

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  11. Lakes and mountains, nothing more needed. Arizona has some beauties, but they don’t let people LIVE beside them…grrr. We love our time at the lake but it’s so far away from everywhere else we want to be! Like you, if we could find a little waterfront house in the west, we’d jump on it instantly. But I imagine we’d have to fight you for it! Great post Ingrid….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, that’d be one heck of a fight 🤣 but hey, there’s always room for an extra RV! Wouldn’t it be perfect to take your lake and property and plant it out here in the west?

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  12. Water in most of the West is increasingly becoming an issue as the climate warms, and the rains have seemed to stop. But it’s so refreshing to spend time near water.

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    • It seems I never get enough time near water. I guess I’ll take what I can get! It has been raining a lot lately and things are beginning to green up which is always a good thing.

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  13. Great article, Ingrid! Yes, water is a precious commodity, way more preceious than most people realize. Mankind can survive without oil, but mankind cannot survive without water. But still we squander it as if it were in endless supply.
    Have a wonderful Sunday,
    Pit

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