Many people make the mistake of assuming that the beautiful American Southwest doesn’t offer many boating opportunities, but this is completely wrong. There are hundreds of rivers and lakes here, especially in Arizona. Arguably, one of the best and most comfortable ways to enjoy the dry and hot desert is on a boat in the deep lake waters. Whether you’re boating for sights, thrills, fish, or to find that perfect swimming spot, Arizona lakes have something for everyone.
This massive 25-mile wide and 186-mile long lake has 1960 miles of shoreline to explore and covers 162,560 water surface area acres. Since the lake was created by damming the Colorado River and filling Glen Canyon, it is very deep, too, about 400 feet deep.
Lake Powell is situated six hours north of Flagstaff and a little less than six hours northeast of the Grand Canyon. The top of the lake is in Utah, while the bottom and the Glen Canyon Dam are part of northern Arizona.
Lake Powell is an artificial reservoir that was filled with the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam. The decision to fill this canyon was controversial and difficult. Many believed creating an artificial reservoir in the desert was bad.
Nearly 100 feet of water level has been lost in the past three years, and many scientists believe the water levels will never be restored. This gorgeous lake may not be around forever, so enjoy it while it’s still here.
Many people who boat on Lake Powell do so for speed boating and water activities such as tubing, waterskiing, parasailing, and more.
The best access points for Lake Powell are Stateline Boat Ramp (8112 Lake Shore Dr, Page, AZ 86040), Antelope Point Launch Ramp (at the end of Antelope Point Road), and Lake Powell Marinas (at the end of Halls Crossing Marina Road).
Roper Lake, while much smaller than others on this list, is still a beautiful recreation spot ideal for anglers and young families. It is in the southeastern corner of Arizona, about two hours northeast of Tuscon.
Roper Lake is well stocked with various fish species, and the shorelines are dotted with cabins, a beach, a boat ramp, picnic spots, and even a cozy hot spring.
You can find the boat launch at 101 E Roper Lake Road, Safford, AZ 85546.
Like many other lakes in the American southwest, Lake Havasu is a manufactured reservoir created by the Parker Dam on the Colorado River. It was finished in 1938 with the intention of recreation (an estimated 3/4 of a million people visit here annually) and water storage for two local aqueducts.
It is situated on the western border of Arizona, right in the middle of the Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angelos triangle.
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge borders the lake on the upper side of the lake. On the Eastern shore, you’ll see Lake Havasu State Park. Finally, the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge can be found on the southeastern edge, near the Bill Williams River Canyon and the Parker Dam.
Havasu was originally Mojave land and sat atop the convergence of the upper Mojave Desert, lower Sonoran Desert, and the Californian Colorado Desert ecoregion.
White Sturgeon was first introduced to the lake in the late 1960s, but their numbers have declined recently. Still, sturgeon prefer the bottoms of the lakes, can grow upwards of 20 feet long, and can live to be one hundred years old.
Other fish species that seem to be more prominent are the carp, flathead and channel catfish, razorback sucker, striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and sunfish (many species).
While this is an excellent fishing spot, it’s a good idea to catch and release only because high levels of mercury have been found in the fish’ bodies.
Here are some of the best boat ramps for Lake Havasu:
- Lake Havasu State Park Boat Ramp, at London Bridge Rd, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403.
- Parker Dam Launch, at Takeoff Point Rd, Parker, AZ 85344
- Site Six Launch Ramp, at Beachcomber Blvd, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403.
- Lake Havasu Marina, at 1100 McCulloch Blvd N, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403.
Tempe Town Lake
Tempe Town Lake is the second-most visited public attraction in Arizona, right after the Grand Canyon. Two and a half million people visit each year, which is expected to continue rising. It is just seventeen minutes east of Phoenix.
A dam was built at the end of the dried-up Salt River that ran through the center of the town of Tempe, and then water was added to this portion of the dry bed.
This lake now offers flood protection, wildlife habitats, recreation, and economic stimulation (to the tune of more than two billion dollars since it was built, plus forty thousand jobs created) for the area. There are dozens of parks, art facilities, memorials, volleyball courts, and habitat areas encompassing Tempe Town Lake. Hundreds of large and small businesses were also drawn to the area.
Some of the best boat ramps to access Tempe Town Lake are Town Lake Marina Boat Launch (550 E Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, AZ 85281), and Tempe Town Lake North Bridge (next to North Linear Park at 539 N Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281).
Patagonia Lake is near the Mexican border, about 90 minutes south of Tuscon. It’s a short 40-minute drive northeast of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Most of Patagonia Lake is surrounded by nearly untouched wildlife, though the south-central shore of the lake offers a campground, a Lakeside Market, parking, plus a marina.
You may swim anywhere you please, so long as you avoid the boat launch area. The water is considered “wild,” and there aren’t any lifeguards on duty. Boulder Beach is the best swimming area, especially for young families.
Motorized and non-motorized boats are welcome here, but PWCs and V-8 jet boats are prohibited here.
Waterskiing is allowed from October 1st through April 30th. From May 1st to October 1st, waterskiing is only allowed during weekdays and not on weekends or legal holidays (because of overcrowding and the safety issues).
Two boat ramps are available, both sitting right by the campground at the end of Patagonia Lake Road in Rio Rico, AZ.
Saguaro Lake, named after the local cactus, is nestled on the Salt River, 50 minutes east of Phoenix, and 40 minutes east of Tempe. It’s ten miles long, 1,200 acres, 110 feet deep, and offers 22 miles of gorgeous, diverse shoreline.
You can see marshes, wetlands, deserts, desert shrubland, canyon walls, crags, mountains and lots of jagged rocks from the lake. You can spot the namesake cactus blooming from April to June (depending on that year’s weather) and these massive cacti can reach heights of 60 feet tall (or sometimes more). Mesquite and ironwood trees also dot the shoreline, which are just beautiful all year round.
The Steward Mountain Dam created this lake in 1930 and was the last section of the Salt River to be made into a reservoir.
Many who visit the lake do so to fish largemouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, crappie, wallet, catfish, and carp. It’s also a great place to boat, sail, ski, and jetski.
There is an adjacent campground nearby (Bagley Flat Campground) that is only accessible by boat. If you’re looking to have a unique and unforgettable boating experience, consider camping here.
Boat ramps for Saguaro Lake can be found at Saguaro Lake Marina (14011 N Bush Hwy, Mesa, AZ 85215), and Saguaro Lake Public Boat Ramp (near the end of E Forest 206A Road).
Ready for your next boating adventure in beautiful Arizona? With Boatsetter, there are various boat types available for rent across Arizona.