Top 10 Arizona Lakes

Maybe it’s the fact that we live in a desert, but everyone here in Arizona seems to truly appreciate the aquatic opportunities on offer. Luckily, there happen to be quite a few of them around the state – approximately 40! – of varying sizes. In honor of the “unofficial” start of summer (and the swiftly approaching 100+ degree temps) I decided it was time for a quick rundown of some of the local watering holes, starting with 10 of the major lakes.

Saguro, cactus, Lake Pleasant, ArizonaLake Pleasant
Location: Just northwest of Phoenix along SR74. Closest city is Peoria, AZ.
River: Agua Fria River
Overview: I’ve already covered Lake Pleasant, so I won’t go into additional detail here. Suffice it to say it’s close, large, cool, and super popular.

Bartlett Lake Arizona wildflowersBartlett Lake
Location: Northeast corner of the greater Phoenix area. Closest city is Carefree, AZ.
River: Verde River
Overview: Bartlett is the second largest lake in the Phoenix area (behind Lake Pleasant). The lake is approximately 12 miles long with one side of gently sloping beaches opposite mountains on the other. Bartlett is usually a bit quieter than Pleasant and has plenty of wonderful spaces to explore via kayak or boat.
Hint: It’s also an excellent place for wildflowers in the spring!

Apache Lake ArizonaSaguaro, Canyon, Apache Lakes
Location: East of Phoenix along SR88. Closest city is Apache Junction, AZ.
River: Salt River
Overview: I’ve grouped these three together because they’re in such close proximity to one another, although they each offer something a bit different. Saguaro Lake is named (appropriately enough) for the surrounding stands of Saguaro Cactus. It’s the closest of the three to Phoenix. Canyon Lake is the smallest of the group with only 28 miles of shoreline. But it is also probably the most picturesque with its unusual rock formations and scenic red rock canyon walls. Apache Lake is approximately 17 miles long with plenty of secluded coves and painted canyon walls. It’s also home to plenty of desert wildlife, including javelina, big horn sheep, deer, etc. All three of these lakes are excellent for boating, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, or any combination thereof!
Hint: If you begin in Apache Junction and continue along SR88, you’re in for quite a scenic treat! The pavement ends and the twists begin, but you’ll eventually pass by all three of these lakes and find yourself at Roosevelt Lake.

Lake Roosevelt, ArizonaRoosevelt Lake
Location: East of Phoenix along SR188. Closest city is Apache Junction or Globe, AZ.
River: Salt River
Overview: Once the country’s largest man-made lake, today Roosevelt is the 3rd largest behind Lake Powell and Lake Mead. It is still, however, the largest man-made lake within a single state at 22 miles long with over 120 miles of shoreline. Roosevelt is generally more popular with anglers and boaters, but I have seen kayaks, swimming, etc. Oh and the bridge…totally photo worthy. (smile)
Hint: Visit the nearby Tonto National Monument for some superb cliff dwellings.

Fish at Lake Havasu diveLake Havasu
Location: Western border between Arizona and California. Closest city is Lake Havasu City, AZ.
River: Colorado River
Overview: Lake Havasu is probably best known as the west’s Spring Break destination. It’s easily Arizona’s most visited lake with over 2.5 million visitors every year. The lake itself is 45 miles long and has over 450 miles of shoreline crossing the border between Arizona and California. It’s also a very scenic lake and offers a great place for paddle boarders, kayakers, and even divers!
Hint: Lake Havasu City is the home (one) of the London Bridge(s) – direct from England! It’s a pretty interesting story and a must see (especially if you’ve seen the latest London version).

Lake Mead Arizona Nevada borderLake Mead
Location: Northwestern border between Arizona and Nevada. Closest city is Boulder City, NV.
River: Colorado River
Overview: Created by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is the 2nd largest man-made lake in the U.S. The lake extends into both Arizona and Nevada and features over 550 miles of shoreline. From scenic drives, gorgeous hikes, to boating, there’s definitely something for everyone.
Hint: The area is full of ancient history as well as engineering history – a tour of the nearby Hoover Dam is definitely worth putting on the list.

Hoover Dam facing southLake Mohave
Location: Northwestern border between Arizona and Nevada, south of Lake Mead. Closest city is Bullhead City, AZ / Laughlin, NV.
River: Colorado River
Overview: Lake Mohave is only 4 miles across at its widest point, but it is 67 miles long and boasts over 200 miles of shoreline. Most of the length is bordered by steep canyon walls. At the northern-most end boats can travel up the Colorado River to the base of Hoover Dam, which features stunning views of canyon walls. Lake Mohave is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and is administered by the National Park Service.
Hint: Nearby Laughlin is unofficially known as “little Vegas” amongst my friends. It feature several luxury casinos but isn’t quite as….overwhelming.

Lake Powell from Glen Canyon DamLake Powell
Location: Northern border between Arizona and Utah. Closest city is Page, AZ.
River: Colorado River
Overview: Lake Powell comes in as the largest man-made lake in the country. When full, the lake is 186 miles long with over 90 side canyons. It boasts almost 2,000 miles of shoreline – which rivals the total (continental) coastline of the Pacific Coast (U.S.) states! Lake Powell is especially known for its house boats and I can totally see why – once you’ve seen a sunrise over those gorgeous red rocks, you can’t help but want to stay and see it again…and again…
Hint: Off the lake you can take a tour of Glen Canyon Dam (which created the lake), visit picturesque Horseshoe Bend, or explore the famous Antelope Canyons. Not to be biased, but this is by far my favorite lake. (smile)

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Arizona Lakes

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    • They all definitely have some desert beauty to offer 🙂 Hopefully you’ll get to spend some time at one of them – onshore or off, they make for some spectacular experiences! Where are you guys headed??


    • Havasu is definitely where the party happens – especially spring break! I’ve always wondered given how close the actual ocean/beach is, but whatever works 🙂 It’s a great place for people-watching! The others are pretty great as well, though. Definitely worth checking out if you’re nearby 🙂


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