Located in the northeast valley is beautiful Bartlett lake. It is the second biggest lake in The Valley of the Sun (Lake Pleasant being the largest). And so close to home!
After you drive through part of the unique and entertaining western towns of Cave Creek and Carefree, there is a delightful 13 mile serpentine drive down Bartlett Dam Road, until you come upon the expansive lake and marina in the distance. At the first lake parking lot you will see the sheriff station to the left, and boat ramp. This is the first easy drop in location. The marina to the right is private, but there is a newer general store for supplies that locals have access to. Frequently in the wintertime, like most lakes, you will have this body of water all to yourself. This lake does require a Tonto National Forest pass.
(*TIP: Check the wind flag at the sheriff station to see what direction it is blowing. Or check wind speeds prior to your day of paddling, if this is a concern for you or your group. Conditions can actually make for great SUP skills of strength and technique, if you are comfortable with that aspect. For your safety, kneeling or sitting to get through wind, is an option.)
Beyond the first boat ramp going north is Rattlesnake Cove, they have plentiful shaded ramadas, a tiered parking lot, but it is a little walk to a waterfront drop-in. It is a wonderful, protected family-friendly cove. The next drop in spot, further north down the road is SB(Snakebite) Cove, or beyond, at Bartlett Flat. An exceptional feature about these last two areas mentioned, is that you can pull right up to the water’s edge and enjoy paddling beachfront/lakefront. Hang out all day or weekend with beach chairs, umbrellas, your SUPs, and a BBQ! You can even drive a Class A motorhome right up to the water’s edge and camp out for an extended period of time.
(*TIP: Where ever you choose to put in, paddle to the east side with a little snack and hydration, there are many places to rest your board, and savor under the shade of one of the many saguaro cacti and rock formations.)
At Bartlett Flat is golden-yellow Vermillion Cliffs across the water, where you could catch a glimpse of bald eagles teaching their young to fly. (This is a protected area for the Bald Eagles.) The dazzling sunsets are spectacular on the cliffs, as your day dims toward evening.
For a distance paddle, start from any of the drop ins, and go the north end which serpentines up the Verde River to Horseshoe Reservoir, eventually ending in a desolate section.
(*TIP: In the first parking lot by the Sheriff station, is a scenic, easy-moderate trail called the Jojoba Trail, that will take you in and out of coves all the way to Bartlett Flat. There are many opportunities to cool off at the water’s edge while enjoying this beautiful hike. Or what a great inflatable SUP hiking adventure, too!)
Written by: Suzi DeMaio-Parmentier
This is a 1 hour and 10-minute drive from the shop. Simply get onto AZ-101 Loop N, N Pima Road and Bartlett Dam Road to Horseshoe Dam Road for 47 miles. Continue on Horseshoe Dam Road to Dam Acc for 2.7 miles. Click this link for Google Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/7EbzqaMUoTL2
Author: Suzi DeMaio-Parmentier