Canyon Lake © Robert Body
Canyon Lake, about 40 miles east of Phoenix is one of the four lakes created by dams on the Salt River. The others are Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake and Saguaro Lake. Canyon Lake is the smallest of the four, but probably the most picturesque. Unusual rock formations, scenic red rock canyon walls combine desert flora create its southwestern natural beauty. Hidden coves that peek out around every turn are great for fishing. Whether you launch your own boat or rent one at the marina, the lake waters are ideal for water-skiing, jet skiing, or just leisure sightseeing.
At an elevation of about 1,600 feet, twenty eight miles of shoreline and 950 surface acres of shimmering waters, the lake does not disappoint.
Gateway To The Scenic Apache Trail
Located just 16 miles from Apache Junction, Arizona, Canyon Lake marks the beginning of the Apache Trail which is one of the most scenic drives in Arizona. The Apache Trail begins with paved roads that soon turn into narrow dirt roads that meander along unique landscape from rolling desert to high cliffs at Fish Creek Hill that features a cascading waterfall after a desert rain.
The Trail covers about 47 miles from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake. Along the way, enjoy the scenes of both Canyon and Apache Lakes. The drive includes views of the backside of the Superstition Mountains where the secrets of the Lost Dutchman's Mine remain hidden. The best time to enjoy the beauty of the trip is at spring time when the cactus are in bloom and the desert comes to colorful life with a spectacular display of wild flowers.
The high canyon walls rise in geometric spirals and unique forms. The road to the lake has twists and turns that give you quick glimpses of the lake as it draws near, building a sense of anticipation of the beauty you will discover. Many of Canyon Lake's seclude shoreline and lagoons are reachable only by water, but you don't need a motorized boat to explore these Edens. A kayak, canoe or a raft will go very well.
Wildlife along the lake side is abundant and it isn't unusual to catch sights of deer, javalina, coyotes and even Big Horn Sheep on occasion. Desert plant life is also abundant including the stately Saguaro cactus and other desert flora. The spring is a special treat when cactus are in bloom. There are also hiking trails around the lake when the urge to get up close with nature arises.
Lake Recreation and Amenities
Anglers can slip into a secluded cove and fish for largemouth bass, walleye, yellow bass, rainbow trout, crappie and channel catfish. Its full-service marina includes a campground, a restaurant, boat rentals, two boat ramps and boat repairs.
Two miles from the marina is the Tortilla Flat Campground which is open from October through April and features 77 camping spots with sewage and water hookups available for a small fee. Fisherman and boaters can also opt to travel three miles up the lake to the Point Campground. This campground is open year round at no charge but has only three spaces available, so depending on the season, arriving early could be critical if you want to camp there.
There are three recreational sites; the Acacia Picnic Site, the Palo Verde Recreation Site and the Boulder Creek Recreation Site. The sites offer picnic areas and restroom facilities, and the idyllic climate permits all three to be open year round. They are available at no charge.
The Dolly Steamboat offers cruise tours, so kickback and let them tour you around the lake as your captain narrates the legends and lore of the mysteries that lie in the Superstition Mountains. Choose from several cruises including sunset, lunch and dinner cruises. Dolly also offers wedding packages.
Directions To Canyon Lake
From Phoenix. Take the Superstition Freeway (Highway 60) east to Apache Junction. Exit at Idaho Road and turn north to Highway 88 (Apache Trail). Travel along Highway 88 northeast for about 14 miles. Just past the second one-lane bridge, turn left into the Canyon Lake Marina.