Kayaking in Arizona

Contrary to popular belief Arizona has a lot more to explore and experience than just desert terrains. Arizona is home to some of the world’s most beautiful freshwater lakes and rivers. This makes Arizona an ideal place for kayaking enthusiasts. Interestingly, there are many seasonal rivers that are dependent on rainfall and molten snow. Many of the rivers throughout Arizona receive ample amounts of sunlight making them incredibly picturesque.

Here Are The Best Places To Kayak In Arizona:

Mountain Lakes, Arizona

Elevated at 9,000 feet, Big Lake is located in the White Mountains. Big Lake is the perfect place for kayakers as it is completely free from the congestion of heavy vessels. The US Forest Service has several campgrounds to choose from that are located near the lake.

Big Lake has multiple campsites in its vicinity. It’s the perfect place for those interested in fishing for Rainbow trout. Boat rentals are available at a good price. It’s a great place for hiking, sightseeing, and even bird watching. The main species of fish found at Big Lake include Rainbow, Brook And Cutthroat trout as well as the occasional Brown trout.

Worth noting that access to the lake has a restriction in the winter months as the roads are closed due to the snow this is usually from late November to early April.

In July the temperature high average temperature sits at Big Lake 75°F (24°C) with an average low sitting at approximately 45°F (7°C).

Lone Rock Canyon

Lone Rock Canyon is a popular destination for kayak tours. Many of the tours begin at Lone Rock Beach and make their way to the canyon.

Lone Rock is one of the most beautiful and surreal kayaking spots in the world. It is commonly called “Paradise in the Desert”, and for good reason.

The waters are very clean and suitable for swimming. Thrill seekers will appreciate cliff diving around the walls of the canyon.

The calm waters of Lone Rock Canyon make kayaking an incredibly tranquil experience. The waters are calmest and coolest in the mornings, and the sunsets are incredibly colorful, picturesque, and much anticipated by all.

The nights are equally mystical as there is such little light pollution in the region that the brightness of the stars in the night sky is quite intense.

Big Lake, Apache County, Arizona

Situated at an altitude of approximately 9,000 ft (2,700 m) in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and about 26 miles (42 km) south of the town of Springville. Big Lake is an extremely scenic location for kayaking.

Big Lake has multiple campsites in its vicinity. It’s the perfect place for those interested in fishing for rainbow trout. Other species of fish include Brook trout, Brown trout, and Cutthroat trout.

Boat rentals are available at a nice price. It’s a great place for hiking, sightseeing, and even bird watching. The lake has a surface area of 450 acres (180 ha), an average depth of 16 ft (4.9 m).

It is worth noting that Big Lake is closed during the snowy months, generally from December to early April.

In January the temperature ranges between a high average temperature of 44°F (7°C), with an average low at approximately 14°F (-10°C). In July the temperature ranges between a high average temperature of 75°F (24°C), with an average low at approximately 45°F (7°C).

Lower Salt River, Mesa, Arizona

The Salt River flows near the metropolitan area of Phoenix, it is approximately 200 miles (320km) long.

Lower Salt River features stunning views and lush, mystical greeneries along with awe-inspiring cliffs. The wildlife thrives here. You might even see wild horses galloping along the shorelines. The smooth waters and spectacular landscapes make Lower Salt River remarkable for kayaking.

The other catchable fish found in the river include Smallmouth bass, Largemouth bass, Yellow bass, carp, crappie, walleyes, and catfish.

Upper Salt River

The Upper Salt River goes through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness. It is commonly referred to Arizona’s other Grand Canyon but it’s not quite the same size as the Grand Canyon. Many will say that it is equally beautiful. It is one of the few rivers to run through the Saguaro Cactus Forest which makes it truly surreal landscapes definitely worth experiencing. Many parts of this region do not get cell phone reception so be prepared and check the weather before visiting.

Lake Pleasant, Phoenix, Arizona

Located near Metro Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is a very popular kayaking spot for its locals. The lake’s perimeter stretches out for eleven and a half miles so there is a lot to discover! During the summer the lake is very warm and radiates a majestical aqueous blue. The waters are very clean, clear, calm, and perfect for kayaking. The lake sits at 1,700ft (520m) above sea level, has an average depth of 70ft (21m), and a maximum depth of 170ft (52m). Carl Pleasant Dam created this artificial reservoir. At the time of its completion in 1927, it was the largest agricultural dam project in the world. Some of the fish found in the lake include Flathead catfish, Buffalo fish, carp, catfish, Striped bass, crappie, sunfish, tilapia and White bass.

Lake Pleasant attracts a lot of scuba divers, jet skiers, windsurfers, and many other action sports enthusiasts.

Knoll Lake, Leonard Canyon, Arizona

Knoll Lake is located in Leonard Canyon, Arizona and is a part of the Blue Ridge Ranger District.

It rests at approximately 7,340ft (2,240m) above sea level.

The lake is home to Rainbow trout, Brown trout, and Brook trout, making it a wonderful place to fish. It is a quiet lake without crowds. Restrictions on boats mean that nothing beyond 10 horsepower is permitted, which is great for preventing pollution, and of course, noise. There is, however, a 20-mile rocky dirt road to travel through before reaching the lake. It’s sure to be a memorable experience for the whole family!

Blue Ridge Reservoir, Happy Jack, Arizona

Blue Ridge features spectacular views for its kayakers. The lake is surrounded by lush forestry and is perfect for hiking. It is known for its picturesque views: the surrounding area is filled with greenery attracting many birds and squirrels. It is relatively narrow and has the appearance of a river. Blue Ridge has a surface area of 70 acres (28ha) and an average depth of 147ft (45m) in normal conditions.

The boats allowed are capped at 10 horsepower, so you won’t be disturbed by noise and exhaust. The pristine waters are also amazing for fishing. Definitely a secret gem worth exploring in your kayak.

Fishing enthusiasts will be able to find Rainbow trout, Brown trout, and Green sunfish. On the outskirts, there are some designated campgrounds.

Lake Powell

Named after one-armed civil war veteran and explorer John Wesley Powell, Lake Powell attracts around 3 million visitors each year, and for good reason. Located on the border of Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell at times feels like a little piece of heaven on Earth.

Lake Powell is surrounded by canyons, many of which are hidden and can be explored with the help of tour guides.

The lake can be a fisherman’s dream with an abundance of Smallmouth bass, Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Striped sass, Black crappie, Channel catfish, Northern pike, Bullhead catfish, and Walleye.

Striped Bass is one of the most common fish to catch at Lake Powell. The keener anglers will be able to find them at around 30 to 80 deep around the river inlets.

Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs Lake is a cold water lake. It is situated at the top of the Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona. The lake is located at 7,513 ft (2,290m) above sea level. Willow Springs Lake has a surface area of 158 acres (70ha), and an average depth of 60ft (18m). It is a peaceful place for fishing.

Between May and September, the lake is usually filled with Green sunfish, Rainbow trout, Smallmouth bass, and Largemouth bass.

Ice fishing is very popular during the winter months.

Boats in the area are maximum of 10 horsepower.

The lake is quite popular with 26 maintained campsites to choose from.

Black Canyon Lake

Situated in Navajo, Arizona Black Canyon Lake is approximately 7,000 feet above sea level. The lake has a surface area of 78 acres (32 ha), an average depth of 35 feet (11m), and a maximum depth of 60 feet (18m).

It is great for fishing. With some persistence, you can catch some Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, Green Sunfish, and even crayfish. The lake provides its guests with a peaceful and scenic atmosphere. The visitors know it to be a hidden gem, excellent for a day of kayaking and fishing.

When selecting a place to set up camp, it worth noting that in 2002 it was affected by the Rodeo-Chediski fire, so there is some risk of falling trees. Some of the trees around the lake remain charred. Nonetheless, Black Canyon Lake still provides an unbelievably beautiful experience.

From December to early April, Black Canyon Lake is generally not accessible as the roads are closed due to the snow.

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Located in Gila Country, Roosevelt Lake is the largest lake in Arizona. It has a maximum length of 22.4 miles (35.8km), and a maximum width of 2 miles (3.2km).

With beautiful views and many campsites, Lake Roosevelt is a great place for camping, fishing, and even swimming. Because of the size of the lake, it never feels too crowded. You can always find a nice spot of peace and quiet. Lake Roosevelt is a popular location for motorboaters and watercraft. Paddlers can still find many quiet places, especially around the east side of the lake. It is worth noting that you will need to bring your own kayak as the marina does not rent them out.

The lake can sometimes be a little low for shoreline fishing so it’s better to come along with a kayak. The wildlife thrives here, so be cautious when driving to ensure that you avoid animals.

Verde River

The Verde River is approximately 170 miles (270 km) in length. It is one of the largest perennial streams in Arizona. Towns including Camp Verde, Clarkdale, and Cottonwood make up the main population along the river. The Verde River is great for catching Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, and Channel catfish. The views and sceneries make this a special place that everyone should visit. It truly is a mystical place. You may even spot the occasional wild horse.

Bear Canyon Lake

Bear Canyon Lake has situated approximately an hour drive northeast of the town of Payson. In the winter months, there are restrictions to access the lake as the roads are closed due to excessive snowfall. Arizona Game and Fish Department built the lake for recreational fishing.

It lies at 7,500ft (2300m) above sea level. Bear Canyon Lake has a surface area of approximately 242,800 meters sq. It is a great place for peaceful camping trips, as it’s known to be one of the quietest lakes in Arizona. The fall is a great time for fishing as there is an abundance of Rainbow trout. However, live bait has no permission and there is a bag limit of 6 trout.

Tall pine trees, aspen trees, and blue spruce are beautifully surrounding the edges of the lake and campsites

Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon Lake is located approximately 30 miles (48km) east of Payson near the town of Heber. It is a small lake and is a part of a series of canyon-bound lakes on the Mogollon Rim. Woods Canyon Lake sits at an altitude of 7,510 feet (2,290m) above sea level, has a surface area of about 55 acres, an average depth of 25ft (7.6 m), and a maximum depth of 40ft (12 m).

The lake is accessible through paved forest roads that are open most of the year but are often restricted during the snowy months of December through to April.

In the summer months, the lake is suitable for fishing. Here you can find Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Golden shiner, and Fathead minnow.

Woods Canyon Lake has been well developed with multiple campsites and facilities to cater for recreation vehicles and entrance points for boats. There are restrictions on the types of boats, which means only boats with electric motors are allowed. Kayaks, canoes, and boats can be rented from a country store on the lake.

The scenery around the lake is picturesque. There are many trails making it ideal for hiking. The drive to the lake provides spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim. There is lots of friendly wildlife such as squirrels, birds, elk, and chipmunks.

Bartlett Lake

Named after Bill Bartlett who was a government surveyor, Bartlett Lake is located 48 miles (77km) outside of Phoenix and is 17 miles (27km) northeast of the town Carefree. It sits at 1,600 ft (490m) above sea level. The lake has a surface area of 2,015 acres (815 ha), an average depth of 100 ft (30m), and a maximum depth of 174 ft (53 m).

Bartlett Lake has multiple camping sites and boat rental facilities.

The lake is a great escape from the Arizonian summer heat.

It is also a great place for swimming and even jet skiing.

The lake is large, and even though it is a popular destination, there is plenty of room for peaceful kayaking sessions.

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is approximately halfway between Phoenix and the old ghost town of Sunflower. Steward Mountain Dam formed the lake is the 4th reservoir on the Salt River. The lake is quite accessible, just off the State Route 87. Its location is in Tonto National Forest which is famous for its majestical sceneries.

The lake sits at approximately 1,500 ft (459m) above sea level and has a surface area of about 1264 acres (512 ha), with an average depth of 90ft (27m).

Saguaro Lake is home to many different species of fish including; Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, carp, Yellow perch, tilapia, Channel catfish, Walleye, crappie, and sunfish.

Wildlife thrives here. You might even be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle, heron, mountain sheep, or even wild horses.

There are two lookouts and trails which makes it a great destination for hiking. Anyone can hire Boats and kayaks at the Saguaro Lake, Marina.

Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake was built on August 8, 1997, and first flooded June 2, 1999. It is a nice safe place for kayaking.

Tempe Town Lake is a great size for kayaking enthusiasts, it has a surface area of 224 acres, an average depth of 16 ft (4.9m), and a maximum depth of 19 ft (5.8 m).

The lake is home to many festivals for its urban environment with many surrounding parks and buildings. It is definitely a unique experience for those who are using the kayak in the more natural reserves. At night time the city’s skyline creates an enchanting display for its observers.

Adjacent to the lake is the Tempe Beach Park which makes up 5 miles (8 km) of paths ideal for jogging, bicycle, and in-line skating. The lake is full of Rainbow trout on a monthly basis from November to February. There are multiple naturally occurring species which include bluegill, Largemouth bass, Yellow bass, carp, Channel catfish, and tilapia. However, fishing in the lake does require an Arizona fishing license

Topock Gorge

Topock Gorge is a gorge and canyon section of the Colorado River in Mohave County. It is a natural landmark and popular destination for travelers passing through historic Route 66.

The Topock Gorge is a brilliant spot for kayaking. The average depth is 15ft (4.6m) and its elevation 500 ft (150 m) above sea level. It is the home to several species of fish including Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, Striped bass, sunfish, carp, Channel catfish, and crappie.

The gorge contains an archaeological site with petroglyphs (carved images) made by the Mojave Indian people.

A truly enchanting place to explore.

Lynx Lake, Arizona

The Lynx Lake is a reservoir at the Prescott National Forest and it is quite accessible located only a few miles off route 69. It is also about 5 miles (8 km) east from the small city of Prescott and a popular destination attracting more than 90,000 visitors each year.

The lake sits at approximately 5,530 ft (1,690 m) above sea level. It has a surface area of 55 acres (22 ha), and an average depth of (12 m). Many majestical animals are native to the region including Bald eagles, Mule deer, osprey, and javelinas. Naturally occurring species of fish include Largemouth bass and crappie.

Lynx Lake is a nice, quiet place for kayaking. Motorboats cannot enter into the lake. Boats and kayaks are available to hire at a very affordable rate from the Marina. None can swim in the lake, however, the area is popular for Gold prospecting and there is still some gold in the region. So you might get your fuel money back if you are lucky. It is important to note that no mechanical mining equipment has acceptance along with mining aids.

The ecology in the area thrives. There is an abundance of Beargrass, Ponderosa pine, Alligator Juniper, and cliff-rose.

There are 36 campsites to choose from. Well maintained campsites are great for picnics. There is also a 2-mile trail on the outskirts of the lake who loves hiking.

The best thing about Lynx Lake is that it is accessible all year round.