Just northeast of central Phoenix, along the Verde River in Tonto National Forest, lies the serene waters of Bartlett Lake. Formed as a reservoir when the Salt River Project dammed the Verde River in the late 1930’s, Bartlett Lake has over 33 miles of shoreline and a surface area of over 2,000 acres, making it larger than both Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake combined. The lake is surrounded by lush, saguaro-studded desert vegetation, and can be found bursting with wildflowers in spring following wet winters. A marina offers boat storage, a gas dock, boat rentals, jet ski rentals, and a small marina store where you can stop by for some bait or pick up the ingredients you might have forgotten for your afternoon picnic. Or if you don’t feel like packing or are looking for lunch with a view, stop in to the Bartlett Lake grill, which offers indoor and outdoor seating, and is located at the marina adjacent to the store.
This oasis in the desert is perfect for both day and weekend trips and allows for many recreational activities. Some of the more popular activities include beach camping and picnicking, boating and fishing, as well as swimming and waterskiing. While hiking the 1.3-mile Jojoba Trail, guests can spot many native animal species including mule deer, coyotes, javelina, and even bald eagles. The lake has an impressive view to the east of the Mazatzal Mountains, which creates a striking backdrop against the lake making for beautiful photo opportunities.
Bartlett Dam was built to create the reservoir (lake) amidst the outcry from farmers during the Great Depression. Constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, funding was provided by Salt River Project with a small amount of funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, creating needed jobs and flood control on the river. The dam was the first on the Verde River and took nearly three years to be constructed. It was not until the mid-1990’s that the dam was updated, leaving it at its current size of 308 feet tall and 823 feet in length. The dam, and therefore the lake, were named after a government surveyor, Bill Bartlett.
Bartlett Dam and the subsequent dams along the Verde River were undoubtedly major players in the growth of Phoenix and the surrounding cities during World War II. The history of the dam and the stunning beauty of Bartlett Lake create a lovely getaway for visitors to celebrate Arizona water. Before heading out remember to buy a U.S. Tonto National Park Pass. Other fees may apply depending on your activities at the lake.
Celebrate AZ Water with us and see all the other amazing places you can visit and explore.
Kellie Rorex is a volunteer intern with the City of Mesa, AZ, one of 17 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice as well as classes and programs. Kellie is a graduate student at Arizona State University and studies Sustainability and Urban and Environmental Planning.