Visiting Saguaro Lake Recreation Near Phoenix, Arizona

Saguaro cactus by Theodore Roosevelt Lake, Arizona, America, USA
DeepDesertPhoto / Getty Images

If you're visiting Phoenix, Arizona, and looking to get active in nature, head to Saguaro Lake. Saguaro Lake is a scenic recreation area 41 miles from Phoenix and 15 miles from Fountain Hills, Arizona, where you can enjoy boating, fishing, picnicking, and hiking.

Saguaro Lake was formed as the Stewart Mountain Dam was built on the Salt River as part of the Salt River Project. The lake is part of the Tonto National Forest, and it is surrounded by beautiful, jagged rocks and forests of Saguaro. The average depth of the lake is 90 feet.

Activities on Saguaro Lake

Here are some of the ways you can enjoy this lake and the surrounding area. You can rent a motorboat. fishing boat, or pontoon boat, or for a little more structure, take a relaxing Desert Belle Paddleboat Tour. If you have your own boat, look for a marina where you can rent a slip.

On the Desert Belle Paddleboat Tour, enjoy a 90-minute, narrated cruise where you'll see towering canyon walls, dramatic desert vistas, and exotic Arizona wildlife. Desert Belle has been plowing the waters of Saguaro Lake for more than 40 years. Private charters are available.

Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, and walleye are a few of the fish that anglers can find in these waters.

Where to Stay on Saguaro Lake

On the other side of the dam as the Salt River continues is the beautiful Saguaro Lake Ranch that once served as a residence and chow hall for workers building the dam. You can stay at a cabin, sit around the four-sided fireplace, swim in the pool, go horseback riding, and enjoy the birds and wildlife along the river.

Camping on Saguaro Lake is accessible only by boat. Bagley Flat Campground (30 spaces) is about four miles from the dam. It is open all year (bonus: no fees). To get there, travel up a narrow cliff-bordered portion of the lake. The campground is in a scenic and peaceful area and has sanitation facilities.

How to Visit Saguaro Lake

Being close to Phoenix, Saguaro Lake is a popular recreation area, so prepare for that if you visit during the busy season. It is also scenic, so bring a camera. Go early or stay late if you want to photograph the towering cliffs and stands of saguaro cacti.

Remember to pay your visitation fees and get your pass before you get to the lake. (You can buy a pass at gas stations and stores in town before you get to the lake.) It may not be an intuitive way of doing things, but that's how it's done. You'll need a pass for your vehicle and also for each watercraft every day, but the cost is minimal and far outweighed by the splendor of this natural destination.

Was this page helpful?