Saguaro Lake is one of the lakes closest to the Greater Phoenix area, near the northeast part of Mesa, Arizona. It is close to another popular local attraction, Salt River Tubing at the Salt River Recreation Area. While tubing is for the more adventurous of us, a ride on the Desert Belle at Saguaro Lake is perfect for people who aren't interested in getting wet and don't want to expend too much energy.
The Desert Belle paddle boat is a clean, modern vessel with room for more than 140 passengers. There are two levels. The lower level is enclosed and air-conditioned. The upper level has a canopy cover making summer rides possible. There are a few seats in the front of the boat that have no cover at all and afford the best view of where the boat is headed.
Although previously conducted with an older, smaller and heavier boat, these narrated tours of Saguaro Lake have been taking place since 1964. Passengers learn about the desert, the lakes, the mountains, the flora and the fauna from the Captain (not a recording) as the 90-minute tour takes them about five miles into the lake and back.
When does Desert Belle operate?
The Desert Belle operates all year long, rain or shine. There are midday, afternoon and sunset cruises. From time to time, there may be special party or music-related cruises. Of course, the Desert Belle is available for charter for special occasions.
Where is it?
Saguaro Lake is one of several lakes that is within a relatively short driving distance from the Greater Phoenix area. It is actually near Mesa, Arizona and Fountain Hills, so it is easily accessible from the East Valley as well as from Scottsdale.
Take the Beeline Highway 87 toward Fountain Hills. Keep going, about ten more miles past Shea Blvd. to the Saguaro Lake turnoff at Bush Highway. Turn right. Drive about 4 miles. The entrance to the Marina will be on your left. The signage is good.
from Mesa take Power Road north and continue on Bush Highway until you get to the Marina entrance, on your right.
Saguaro Lake Marina Address:
14011 N Bush Highway
Mesa AZ 85215
See this location on Google Maps.
Desert Belle Sightseeing Tour Phone:
You should plan to be there at least 15 minutes early if you have advance tickets.
How do I get tickets and how much are they?
You may purchase tickets:
- in advance online, with a credit card.
- in advance by phone, with a credit card, to 480-984-2425 or 877-749-2848.
- at the ticket booth at Saguaro Lake, cash or checks only.
Prices for the narrated tours include tax (July 2016):
13 Years and older: $22
Children 5 - 12: $15
Advanced boarding tickets are available at a higher price.
There is no charge to park. Although you'll see signs that refer to a Recreation Pass, you don't need one for this boat ride. Park in the lot next to the restaurant.
Are discounts available?
Contact the office for large group discounts.
What else should I know?
Children 12 and under are required by law to wear a life vest for the duration of the trip. If you have a life vest for your child, you may bring it. If not, one will be provided.
There is a full-service restaurant at the Saguaro Lake Marina here. The Lakeshore Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days per week. It isn't upscale dining, but there is a fairly extensive menu of reasonably priced food. There is outdoor seating overlooking the marina. I have some more tips for you on the next page.
My Ten Tips
Now that I've told you how and where to buy tickets for your 90-minute narrated cruise on Saguaro Lake, here are some things that you might want to know before you purchase your tickets.
- If you don't purchase your tickets in advance, you can go directly to the Desert Belle ticket office at Saguaro Lake. Be aware, though, that tickets might sell out, and you might not get on without a prepaid ticket. People who don't have not purchased advance tickets will be offered any available tickets, or tickets for no-shows, on a first come, first-served basis.
- When you make reservations online, make sure you include any children under 5. Even though there is no charge for them, the staff needs to know how many people will be on board the boat. If the trip you are on sells out, you might have to keep your young child on your lap for the duration of the tour.
- Desert Belle does not accept credit cards at the marina, only online in advance.
- Desert Belle is popular for parties and corporate events, so make sure they have a public tour on the day you are going before you start to drive to the lake.
- Food/beverages are not allowed on Desert Belle. You may purchase water, soft drinks, beer and wine as well as snacks on board. they are very reasonably priced.
- Most people will be in the shade on Desert Belle, but it will still be hot from May through September. On afternoon cruises in the summer, be aware that people sitting along the perimeter on the upper level will be in the sun in one direction or the other. Wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. If you have one of those little personal misters, I'd bring it. Don't forget your camera and your binoculars!
- If you ride on the Saguaro Lake tour boat in the heat of the summer, keep in mind that you are less likely to see animals. They tend to stay hidden in shady places during the hottest parts of the day.
- A ride on the Desert Belle is a quiet, low energy activity. It's great for tourists and for people who can't exert themselves. Desert Belle is handicapped accessible and there are restrooms on board.
- The Captain of Desert Belle does a great job pointing out interesting sights along the tour and sharing stories about Arizona myths and trivia. Ask him questions! He talks for just about the entire tour. If the crew spots any wildlife, they'll make sure you get the photo opportunity.
- In my opinion, the Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake is more scenic, but the drive to get to it is more challenging.
What if I have more questions?
For more information, contact the Desert Belle at 480-984-2425 or 877-749-2848 or visit Desert Belle online.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.