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18 Best and Most Beautiful Lakes in Arizona

By | Last Updated : 30th October 2020

Arizona, home to several water bodies, has about 128 lakes, mostly human-made. While some lie engulfed within a mountainous terrain, a few remain surrounded by a forest landscape, particularly the Tonto National Forest and Apache-Sitgraves National Forest. Thus, besides having a beauty of their own, these lakes generate a stunning view because of its surrounding topography.

Lakes in Arizona

Man-Made Lakes in Arizona 

 The majority of the lakes in Arizona are man-made, developed during the construction of a certain dam or reservoir.

Lakes in Northern Arizona

1. Big Lake

Big Lake in Northern Arizona

 The Big Lake lying at about 9000ft in Apache County is surrounded by the White Mountains. It is one of the famous fishing lakes due to its size, availability of the species, and provision of sufficient amenities for visitors. Being a part of the Apache-Sitgraves National Forest, the lake is also a sought-after destination for wildlife-viewing. Access is not allowed during winters between December and April since it thaws heavily.

Fishing: It is mostly famous for its large trout population, including brook trout, Apache trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat. The best time to fish is from April-May. 

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, bird-watching, picnicking, camping (around the 200 available campsites), mountain biking, and hiking (around the surrounding trails)

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2. Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon Lake in Northern Arizona

Wood Canyon Lake in Coconino County in the eastern part of Payson city is small with a surface area of only 55 acres but with a moderate depth of about 25 ft. It is a part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and to reach through it, one has to cross the dense forest coverings. The pine, oak, aspen, and fir trees surrounding the tranquil lake, takes its beauty to another level. Though opened all-year-round, there might be restrictions on the access in the cold months (December – April) because of the snow-covered paths.

Fishing: The lake is mostly famous for its stock of rainbow trout, tiger trout, and brown trout, primarily available from April to September. The other species include bluegills, crayfish, and fathead minnows.

Other Activities: Though people swim here, it is mostly not recommended since trout fishery occupies a major part of the lake. Some of the recreational activities here include boating, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking, and camping.

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3. Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs Lake in Northern Arizona

Situated on the Mongolian Rim’s top, the Willow Spring Lake is one of the water bodies categorized as Rim Lakes. Being a part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, it has several recreational facilities, including 26 campsites at the nearby Sinkhole Campground, boat benches, and picnic shelters.

Fishing: Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, green sunfish, black crappie, and fathead minnows are mostly found here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, hiking, and camping

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4. Goldwater Lake

Goldwater Lake in Northern Arizona

Goldwater Lake formed on Bannon Creek lies in Yavapai County, located south of the city of Prescott. Lying within the Prescott National Forest, the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation manages the lake. The magnificent forest landscape surrounding the lake makes it a perfect hiking spot. One could find several amenities like picnic tables, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, playgrounds for children, and grills.

Fishing: Rainbow trout is the commonest find, while other available species are the largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, crappie, gila trout, brook trout.

Other Activities: Swimming is not permissible. However, one can opt for canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, and playing beach sports like volleyball.

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5. Watson Lake

Watson Lake in Northern Arizona

Watson Lake, one among the two reservoirs in the Granite Dells, occupies Arizona’s Prescott city. The granite cliffs lying on top of it makes it a great rock climber’s hub. It even houses the TriCity Prep Rowing Crew, northern Arizona’s only rowing team.

Fishing: The species available include largemouth bass, sunfish, channel catfish, crappie, and carp.

Other Activities: Swimming is not allowed. However, one may enjoy boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, and rock climbing.

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6. Lake Mead

Lake Mead in Northern Arizona

The United States’ largest reservoir when it comes to water capacity, Lake Mead, occupies the states of Arizona and Nevada. Of the several recreational activities, boating seems the most sought-after one, with the lake equipped with four marinas. The small to medium-sized islands, rocky cliffs, coves, and sandy beaches in adjacent areas make Lake Mead an excellent vacation spot. The Alan Bible Botanical Garden, a part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, has a small cactus garden which indeed is its central attraction.

Fishing: Striped bass is the main species found in this lake, while the other fish include catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, and smallmouth bass. Rainbow trouts are released on a routine basis every Friday in the area near Willow Beach.

Other Activities: Swimming is allowed, but no lifeguards are available on the lake’s premises. The lake also provides for boating, sunbathing, and water skiing.

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7. Lake Powell

Lake Powell in Northern Arizona

Lake Powell occupies a small part of northern Arizona’s Coconino County and southern Utah’s San Juan, Kane, and Garfield counties. It ranks second after Lake Mead in terms of storage capacity, persevering about 24, 322, 000-acre feet of water. Its 2000-mile shoreline flooded with bright sunshine and picturesque sceneries makes for a perfect vacationing spot, thronged by 2 million visitors every year.

Fishing:  The commonly available species include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, striped bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, jet-skiing, water skiing, and hiking

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Lakes in Southern Arizona

1.  Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake in Southern Arizona

The Canyon Lake lying on the Salt River, spanning over about 380 hectares, is in Maricopa County. The shimmering blue waters, alongside the Superstition Mountains’ picturesque locales adjacent to the lake, create a spectacular view. One could even take pleasure in wildlife-viewing and bird-watching as it is a part of the Tonto National Forest.

Fishing: The lake provides for game fishing on a large scale, with rainbow trout, yellow bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie being commonly available.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, water-skiing, scuba diving, hiking along the surrounding trails, and camping

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2. Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake in Southern Arizona

This reservoir in the Maricopa County developed from 1936-39 during the Verde River’s damming. The lake and its surrounding areas are a sight to behold, especially during spring, when wildflowers bloom around. The town closest to the lake is Carefree, where one could get fuel for their vehicles, groceries, fishing equipment, and other amenities.

Fishing: Some of the catches found here include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, flathead catfish, channel catfish, crayfish, and carp.

Other Activities: Swimming (mostly in summer), kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, jet-skiing, hiking, and camping (mainly in fall and winter)

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3. Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant in Southern Arizona

Lake Pleasant on the Maricopa-Yavapai county border, takes hardly an hour to reach from Phoenix, Arizona’s capital city. The lake covering about 10,000 acres lies within the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, also a sought-after spot for boaters. Its shoreline has two marinas that provide for several facilities like mooring and boat rental, also having a restaurant and a shop. One of the place’s chief attractions that visitors would surely get to see if they go to the lake in April is the Lake Pleasant Paddle Fest.

Fishing:  Bass, sunfish, tilapia, crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish are the commonly available species. The lake provides for ice fishing in winter.

Other Activities:  Swimming, sailing, boating, scuba diving, water skiing, windsurfing, jet skiing, hiking, and camping

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4. Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake in Southern Arizona

Situated at the Salt River-Indian Bend Wash confluence, the lake was built in 1997 but opened for public access in 1999. The Tempe Beach Park, located within the lake premises, has various recreational activities to entertain visitors. The Splash Playground inside the park provides several water sports for the little ones. It is a boater’s hub, and many rowing clubs practice and even race on this lake.

Fishing: Major stocks of rainbow trout occur between November and February. The other species found here include yellow bass, largemouth bass, carp, bluegill, tilapia, and channel catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming is not allowed here. Boating, rowing, sailing, cycling, jogging, in-line skating, camping, and hiking are the few available activities.

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5. Rose Canyon Lake

Rose Canyon Lake in Southern Arizona

Rose Canyon Lake in Pima County lies to the northeastern part of Tuscan. Small in size, with an area of approximately 7 acres, it remains nestled amidst the Sant Catalina Mountains. The Coronado National Forest, of which the lake is a part, remains covered with beauteous pine trees, taking its elegance to another level.

Fishing: The lake is majorly famous for rainbow trout and brown trout available between early April and late August.

Other Activities:  There are no provisions for swimming. Boating is allowed, but only canoes and other small boats, the larger ones are not permissible. Other recreational facilities include hiking, camping, picnicking, and bird-watching.

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6. Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake in Southern Arizona

Saguaro Lake in the Salt River developed during the formation of the Stewart Mountain Dam. This lake lies midway between Phoenix and Sunflower (now a ghost town), acquiring its name after the saguaro cactus found in the surrounding areas. The Tonto National Forest, which this water body is a part of, arranges for many recreational activities to engage visitors. Some of the many amenities present here include picnic tables, boat ramps, restrooms, and a restaurant. The Butler-Jones Beach present nearby makes for a great swimming and picnicking spot.

Fishing: It remains famous for its carp and bass stock. The other species are smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, yellow bass, sunfish, walleye, tilapia, channel catfish, and yellow perch.

Other Activities: Swimming (in the Butler Butcher Beach area), kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, and picnicking

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Lakes in Central Arizona

1. Lynx Lake

Lynx Lake in Central Arizona

Lynx Lake in the Yavapai County lying to the eastern part of the Prescott city is another mountain-lake combination, sure to leave the visitors in complete awe. Its sparkling, blue waters raise it to the stature of one of Arizona’s clearest lakes. A part of the Prescott National Forest, the Bradshaw Mountains (encompassing it), and the dense pine forest create a magnificent ambiance in totality. Besides the several recreational activities, one would also get a glimpse of wildlife like mule deer, javelinas, osprey, and bald eagles.

Fishing: One can fish here throughout the year, with the common finds including rainbow trout, catfish, and sunfish

Other Activities: The lake does not permit swimming. The activities available here include boating, hiking, camping (in the 36 campsites), canoeing, paddleboarding, and mountain biking.

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2. Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Central Arizona

Named after American President Theodore Roosevelt, this is Arizona’s largest lake with a surface area of about 21,493 acres. Situated in the Gila County this one too is a part of the Tonto National Forest.  The Arizona National Scenic Trail, located at its vicinity, is notable for its scenic beauty, being a perfect spot for hikers and mountain bikers. Till 2005, the lake was also home to the endangered willow flycatcher.

Fishing:  Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, flathead, and carp are the species one can find in this lake. The slot size limit for bass fish has been set from 13-16 inches, with only one catch per day.

Other Activities:  Swimming, boating, camping, bird watching, and hiking

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3. Lake Apache

Lake Apache in Central Arizona

Lake Apache is one of the four Salt River reservoirs bordering the Maricopa and Gila counties. A part of the Tonto National Forest, the lake lies along the Apache Trail, being an excellent choice for hiking and camping. In the winter months, its scenic beauty is a treat to the eyes, with wildflowers blooming around the snow-covered terrain. The Apache Lake Marina Resort, located on the premises, has several amenities like motels, RV Park, a restaurant, boat storage slips, and a general store. Four miles to the reservoir’s southern part is the Tonto National Monument, a place worth visiting.

Fishing:  Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow bass, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, carp, flathead catfish, and walleye are found here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water-skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, hiking, and camping

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Lakes in Western Arizona

1. Alamo Lake

Alamo Lake in Western Arizona

This recreational reservoir remains encompassed within the Alamo State Park, occupying the La Paz county. The rugged terrain lying adjacent to the lakes makes for a perfect wildlife-viewing and hiking spot. One could even satisfy their urge for bird-watching since the gold eagle and bald eagle inhabit here. The availability of RV campgrounds, alongside fire rings and picnic tables, make the areas surrounding the lake a favorable camping spot.

Fishing: Itisknownforitsincreasedbasspopulation.The other available species include largemouth bass, channel catfish, sunfish, flathead catfish, and tilapia.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, hiking, and camping

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2. Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu in Western Arizona

This large reservoir formed during the Parker Dam’s construction lies in the California (San Bernardino County)- Arizona (La Paz County) border. The Arizona part of the lake houses Lake Havasu City. The Lake Havasu State Park lying in its vicinity arranges for many exciting activities to enthrall visitors.

Fishing:  It is most famed for its bass catch, while other fish species include crappie, catfish, redear sunfish, and razorback sucker.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, hiking, and camping

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Natural Lakes in Arizona 

Of the several lakes in Arizona, only two are natural, namely the Mormon Lake and Stoneman Lake.

  • Mormon Lake – It is Arizona’s largest lake occupying Flagstaff County. The lovely landscape surrounding the lake with wildlife and birds spread all over is eye-catching. The western shores have a wonderful resort where one can rent amenities like mountain bikes and horses.
  • Stoneman Lake – Occupying northern Arizona’s Coconino County, it is a small-sized lake, standing out due to its stunning beauty. Since it tends to dry up intermittently, there is a paucity of good stocks of fish. It provides recreational activities like boating, camping, and wildlife viewing. 

TOP PICKS

Best Lakes for Fishing: Alamo Lake, Saguaro Lake, Bartlett Lake

Best Lakes for Swimming: Big Lake, Lake Apache, Theodore Roosevelt

Best Lakes for Boating: Lake Mead, Lake Havasu, Tempe Town Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Alamo Lake, Apache Lake, Big Lake

Best Lakes to Live On: Lake Pleasant, Lake Saguaro, Big Lake

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