Saguaro Lake was created on the Salt River by the completion of the Stewart Mountain Dam in 1930. The dam, managed by the Salt River Project, is 212 feet high and 583 feet long, and has a 13,000-kilowatt hydroelectric generator. It was the last dam to be built on the Salt River. Named for the majestic Saguaro Cactus and situated about 40 miles northeast of Phoenix in the Tonto National Forest, Saguaro Lake is the fourth and final reservoir on the Salt River. It is approximately ten miles long, has over twenty-two miles of shoreline, and can hold nearly seventy thousand acre-feet of water. Smaller than Theodore Roosevelt Lake and Apache Lake, its surface area is about 350 acres larger than Canyon Lake and serves to store water as well as to slow the flow of the Salt River.
Saguaro Lake is also a popular recreation site. Its close proximity to the Phoenix area makes it a great location for a day-trip or a weekend getaway! The gorgeous recreation sites include campgrounds, picnic and swimming areas, and a marina. Butcher Jones Beach, Saguaro del Norte Recreation site, and the Saguaro Lake Marina are all easily reached by road. The Bagley Flat Campground, however, is only assessable by boat. If camping is not your style, the marina has boat rentals and a restaurant. There is also a family-friendly boat tour, the Desert Belle. Cruise around the lake and witness the flora and fauna, marvel at the shape and color of the canyon walls, and wonder at the beauty of the water.
Saguaro Lake is home to a variety of wildlife. Visitors often see birds of prey such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Harris’ hawks, and osprey. You might also glimpse songbirds such as black-chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds, Lucy’s warblers, and Bell’s vireos nesting in the spring. Birds such as the western bluebird and northern mockingbird come to the area to feed in the winter. Larger creatures like deer, javelina, bobcats, coyotes, and bighorn sheep roam the canyon walls and drink from the lake. Let’s not forget the varied reptiles – it wouldn’t be the Sonoran Desert without lizards and snakes!
Like its sister lakes, the Saguaro Lake is another fantastic example of form and function. The beautiful lake and its dam serve to generate power, prevent flooding, house wildlife, and provide recreation all the while serving to store the desert’s most precious resource: water. Visit Saguaro Lake and celebrate Arizona’s water. Don’t forget your camera, as you are sure to see some spectacular sites!
Celebrate Arizona Water is a concept developed by Water – Use It Wisely. It provides an opportunity to celebrate the importance and wonder of water in Arizona and to reflect on one of our region’s most precious resources.