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What lakes are open for paddling in Arizona

Kayaking Bartlett Lake in Arizona on the Aquaglide Deschutes inflatable kayak on a nice winter day.

UPDATE 6/30/2020 – Butcher Jones Recreation Site at Saguaro Lake will be closed until March 2021. This is due to the recent Bush Fire and an opportunity for the regrowth of ground cover to prevent possible flooding or landslides during the upcoming Monsoon and winter season. The Saguaro Lake Marina is still open.

The Salt River Tubing has been closed for the season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Lower Salt River is still open at this time for Kayaking, Paddleboarding and recreation.

NOTE: Due to people wanting to get out, the river has been seeing larger than normal crowds and limited parking.

UPDATE 5/13/20 – The Forest Service announced via press release on 5/13/20 that effective 5/14/20 Tonto developed recreation sites will be reopened! Please be safe. Respect the privilege. Please recreate responsibly. Park legally. Recreation passes will be required. Provide your own hygiene and safety when using these facilities. “Leave No Trace”. Take the precautions recommended by the CDC, such as practicing social distancing and limiting group sizes.


The temperature is rising. People are coming out of COVID hibernation and want to paddle! Unless you are hitting the lakes every week, you don’t know how deeply the Coronavirus Pandemic has affected the local lakes and river access. Don’t assume you can just go to that cool little spot you found last summer. Chances are, it’s quarantined too!

In response to literally hundreds of phone calls, messages and texts we’ve received in the last 3 days asking about “where can people paddle?” and “what’s open?”, here is a real-time report of our local paddle spots that are open – and those areas that are closed. DISCLAIMER #1: Like everything during this Coronavirus Pandemic, this information is subject to change without notice and it’s important that you do a little investigating before you venture out. DISCLAIMER #2: This information is neither encouraging people to get outside against other advice nor downplay the severity of the health and safety of our community.

This is what we know to be open now.

  • Tempe Town Lake – North Shore Beach and the Tempe Town Lake Marina. Tempe is a permit lake, and permits are now available for purchase online here.
  • Lake Pleasant – Pleasant Harbor Marina and Scorpion Bay are accepting visitors before 11:00 AM and after 4:00 PM daily until the lots are full – whichever occurs first. 
  • Bartlett Lake – The Jojoba ramp is open. Tonto passes are required and they have a kiosk near the entrance to purchase.
  • Horseshoe Lake – All open, but the Forest Service recommends 4-wheel drive vehicles only to travel the long dirt road. Tonto passes required. 
  • Apache Lake – The lake is accessible from the east end of highway 88 where it meets highway 188. The latest publication shows that the boat ramp at Burnt Corral should open for lake access, however due to a recent landslide on the access road, there may be additional closures enforced restricting access to boat storage members only.
  • Roosevelt Lake – The boat ramps at Cholla, Schoolhouse, Grapevine and Indian Point remain open for lake access, but the camping areas are closed. Tonto passes are required. There are also a few dispersed undeveloped trails and water access areas surrounding the lake, but keep in mind these areas will not have amenities like restrooms and trash dumpsters, so pack it in, pack it out. 

This is what we know that is closed.

Paddle board on Tempe Town Lake at sunset with a beautiful colored skyline.

Tonto National Forest announced on March 23rd the closure of all developed recreation sites at the Lower Salt River, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, Lake Roosevelt and Bartlett Lake until further notice. See the whole closure order here. We spoke to the forest service last week and they had no updates on when the areas would be opening again. In addition, Maricopa County announced the closure of the north ramp at Lake Pleasant shortly thereafter. The north ramp is on the county side (western shore) of the lake at the end of Castle Hot Springs road – so no Fireman’s Cove either. Rumor has it that the state is beginning to re-open businesses on May 1st. (UPDATE: The state has extended the re-opening to May 15th. ) We can only hope our lovely access to the water will open in the coming weeks.

  • Lower Salt River – Water Users, Pebble Beach, Blue Point, Coon Bluff, Phon D Sutton and Granite Reef Recreation Sites are all closed. There are some small areas to park along Bush Highway that require a long walk to the bridge. The road is very busy and heavily patrolled by the Sheriff issuing citations for any and all parking infractions. Keep in mind, walking along a busy highway carries a great safety risk combined with high temperatures.
  • Saguaro Lake – Butcher Jones Recreation Site, Saguaro Del Norte Recreation Site, Boats ramps #1 and #2. Water is only accessible to marina members that have boat slips.
  • Canyon Lake – Acacia, Palo Verde, Boulder and Laguna Recreation sites and launches are closed. The campground is open to reservations. Water access is only available to marina members with boat slips and campground guests. 
  • Apache Lake – Accessible from the east end of highway 88 where it meets highway 188. May be restricted to boat storage members only.
  • Roosevelt – all developed recreation sites are closed to camping and day use. Lake access areas are listed above.
  • Bartlett Lake – all developed recreation sites are closed including Bartlett Flats, SB Cove and Rattlesnake Recreation Sites.
Paddle boarding Bill Williams in Havasu Springs, Lake Havasu with Riverbound Sports.

So, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Paddlers are determined to paddle and will go to great lengths to make it happen! Heck, we just drove 3-hours to Lake Havasu for a day just to get on some big open water. We get it! Paddleboarding and kayaking are by default a socially distant activity. All we can ask from our paddling community is to be very careful with your safety and health while remaining respectful for those who are working hard to keep areas safe too. Our emergency resources need to be available to help those in need during this pandemic. 

For information about renting paddleboards and kayaks, we are offering rentals on a limited basis. Go to our website to secure a booking or call us. Book rentals here. We thoroughly clean and sanitize our rental gear (like we always have) after every use for the health and safety of our customers.

For information about other land managers and parks in Arizona, visit these websites:

Here are some great tips of the to 10 common-sense guidelines because we want to help keep you, your family and other visitors safe thanks to the Arizona Office of Tourism.

  • Practice physical distancing outdoors by staying at least 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid crowded locations where physical distancing may be difficult.
  • Do not gather in large groups.
  • Limit group activities to members of your household.
  • Plan ahead, as services and facilities will be limited.
  • Pack out trash.
  • Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
  • Be respectful of public lands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Do your part!

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