August 25, 2017

We want you to Celebrate AZ Water at Alamo Lake. Some people say that Alamo Lake State Park is the “best kept secret” of the Arizona State Parks system. From the pictures that we have included here, which were part of Water – Use It Wisely’s 2013 Celebrate AZ Water Photo Contest, we think it looks pretty special, too.

History of the Area

The area surrounding the park has been continuously occupied, starting in about 5000 BC. The first inhabitants were a group called the Patayan, followed by the Walapai and Yavapai. The Mohave and their ancestors may have also inhabited the area. In the 1600s, the Spaniards came in search of mines and Indian villages. There are feral burros that currently live within the park. They are thought to be the ancestors of those that accompanied the Spaniards on their expeditions. The activities in the area shifted to ranching and mining in the 1800 and 1900s.

Alamo Lake State Park: A great blue heron flies just above the water on Alamo Lake
A great blue heron flies just above the water on Alamo Lake. Photo by Michille D.

The park, which opened in 1969, is a favorite destination not only for fisherman, but also for wildlife enthusiasts, due to the abundance of wildlife species. These include bald eagle, mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, javelina, and wild burros, along with a wide selection of other small mammals, lizards, snakes, and spiders.

Stargazing at its Best

It is also an excellent location for stargazing due to its lack of proximity to local cities and towns. Located about 38 miles north of Wenden, a small Arizona town (about 45 minutes west and a little north of Quartzsite), it is out and away from nearly everything!

In fact, you can make your first visit a special night under the stars, as the park is hosting Alamo Lake State Park’s Night Under the Stars on November 10, 2018, from 3 to 10 pm. Observe the wonders of the night sky through astronomers’ telescopes at a dark sky park!

The park is open year-round and has two seasons: hot and mild! During the summer months, the temperatures range from 100° to 118° degrees during the day with lows in the 90s. October and November bring somewhat cooler temps in the 80s (high) and 50s (low). From December to April, it is usually 60° to 70° during the day with lows in the 20s and 30s. You’ll want to be prepared, depending on the season you visit. Pack sunscreen and shade or extra clothing for the nighttime lows of winter. The cost to enter the park is $7 per vehicle for 1-4 adults or $3 for an individual/bicycle.

Alamo Lake State Park: A lone fisherman basks in the glow of sunset over the lake
A lone fisherman basks in the glow of sunset over the lake. Photo by Alexander F.

About the Lake

Alamo Lake is a man-made reservoir formed by the creation of the Alamo Dam, constructed in 1968. The primary purpose was flood control. The dam is an earthen structure that is 283 feet high. Runoff from the Bill Williams River, an intermittent tributary of the Colorado River, feeds into the lake, but heavy seasonal rain is what keeps the lake full. Extreme flooding in the area is common, and in one instance, the lake levels rose 11 feet in a single night. It is surrounded by low-desert vegetation and common plants include the Palo Verde, Ironwood, and Mesquite. The surrounding desert also hosts an abundance of diverse cacti. In spring, the park can be a great place for wildflower viewing, depending on the seasonal rains.

Alamo Lake State Park: Clouds and a blue sky reflect off the surface of the lake.
A beautiful day on the lake, as the clouds and a blue sky reflect off the surface of the water. Photo by Doug R.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the size and depth of the reservoir grew significantly due to unexpectedly high flows, which created excellent fishing and recreational opportunities. As with many of Arizona’s artificial lakes, they can serve many purposes. Flood control and water storage are typically the key purpose, but recreation is a tremendous secondary benefit.

Amenities and recreational opportunities at Alamo Lake

The lake is regularly stocked with a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, sunfish, channel and flathead catfish, and tilapia, making it a popular destination for fisherman, and a great location to host fishing tournaments. Additionally, it is considered a premiere destination for bass fishing.

Besides fishing, boating and swimming are also permitted on the lake. There are no designated swimming areas, so swimmers are encouraged to swim close to shore, away from the boat ramps and docks, and in full view of others. Boats can be motorized or non-motorized.

If you are interested in camping, there are more than 40 campsites available. For those of you who prefer a bit more luxury when you camp, there are RV sites as well as lakeside cabins. There is a visitor center and park store, open 8 am to 4:30 pm daily, that offers fishing and camping supplies, as well as souvenirs, snacks, basic groceries, and of course, all the fixins’ for s’mores.

Plan your trip to Alamo Lake State Park. Whether you stay for the day or make it an extended visit, you’ll be glad you came to take in all that this oasis in the desert has to offer.

Looking for great places to visit around Arizona? Check out our other Celebrate AZ Water articles.