11 Amazing Lakes in Arizona (Two Are Under the Radar!)

Written by Sean Moore
Updated: May 19, 2022
Image Credit Pamela Au/Shutterstock.com
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Arizona is a mostly arid state in America’s southwest, so it might not jump out as an area with fantastic lakes. However, with several reservoirs offering fishing and recreation in addition to natural lakes, there is an incredible amount of variety among Arizona’s lakes. Let’s dive into 11 of the most notable with a focus on under-the-radar Arizona lakes, the best fishing lakes, its largest lake, and more!

1.   Lake Mead

Beautiful Lake Mead, serenely surrounded by mountains also extremely popular for bass fishing

iStock.com/Sean Pavone

  • Surface Area: 158,144 acres
  • Max Depth: 532 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes, PWC also allowed
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Boating & Fishing

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. Its name comes from Elwood Mead who helped bring the lake into existence through the Boulder Canyon Project. Access to the lake is open year-round with many recreational options.

The Hoover Dam has been responsible for containing the massive body of water that helps serve Arizona, California, Nevada, and even parts of Mexico since 1936.

The lake is surrounded by multiple mountain ranges and provides an almost surreal background for the majestic beauty of the water. Boating is the main attraction for many visitors. Fishing is also extremely popular and the first-ever B.A.S.S Bassmaster Classic was hosted at Lake Mead in 1971.

2.   Lake Mohave

Luxurious Lake Mohave. Fantastic fishing and year-round glamping for everyone!

Norm Lane/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 26,502 acres
  • Max Depth: 120 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes, PWC also allowed
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Bass & Trout Fishing, Full Service Glamping

Lake Mohave is a full-service recreational powerhouse created in harmony by the Hoover Dam and Colorado River. From camping to fishing to lodging and even shopping; it’s all available. Visitors can even enjoy swimming in the lake year-round due to its warmth.

The lake is stocked with multiple varieties of bass and trout offering top-notch fishing experiences. If fishing isn’t your speed there are also hot springs nearby. Personal watercraft are also permitted on the lake. Scuba diving and kayaking are two other popular options.

Two large resorts, Katherine Landing and Willow Beach offer lodging, camping, dining options, shopping, RV parking with utility hook-ups, boat ramps, and marinas. If you’re less into roughing it and more into glamping, Lake Mead is for you!

3.   Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake, once the largest man-made lake in the world. Still a magnificent sight

iStock.com/twohumans

  • Surface Area: 21,491 acres
  • Max Depth: 349 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Recreational Fishing and Boating

The Theodore Roosevelt Dam along the Salt River creates the massive body of water comprising Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Just a short drive from Phoenix provides access to the full array of recreational activities available. Visitors to the lake can enjoy boating, fishing, and other watersports year-round.

Many years ago the Theodore Roosevelt Dam towered above every other dam in the US. Theodore Roosevelt Lake was the largest man-made lake in the entire world for quite some time.

Surprisingly the lake has a public airstrip about a quarter-mile from the water. The Grapevine Airstrip was closed for many years but was brought back to life by volunteers in 2017. The Arizona Pilots Association holds regular fly-ins at Grapevine Airstrip.

4.   Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu
Exotic Lake Havasu a great place to view wildlife, enjoy fishing and check out an airstrip!

Pamela Au/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 29,689 acres
  • Max Depth: 90 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Recreational Boating & Fishing, Grapevine Airstrip

Lake Havasu sits on the border with California and is served primarily by Lake Havasu City. Lake Havasu is a reservoir that was created in 1938 after the construction of the Parker Dam.

Today, it’s become an iconic meeting ground for recreational boating and fishing. The lake is primarily stocked with bass, but also has carp, catfish, suckers, and more. The lake has been called “the most exotic place in Arizona that you can reach by road.”

Wildlife is another attraction at Lake Havasu. Desert bighorn sheep, falcon, fox, bobcat, coyote, and many other animals can be spotted in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge at the upper end of the lake.

5.   Lake Pleasant

Looking for scuba in Arizona? Lake Pleasant is highly sought after for diving. Dive in!

iStock.com/Jearlwebb

  • Surface Area: 7,411 acres
  • Max Depth: 69 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Inland Scuba Diving, Swimming, Fishing, Pontooning

Lake Pleasant has a rich history dating back to roughly 700 A.D. The area was originally populated by the Hohokam, “ancient farming peoples of the southern deserts of Arizona.” There have been five sites unearthed by archeologists and many still lay beneath the lake’s waters.

Once sought by miners, who quickly discovered their prospecting efforts were in vain, the lake is now known for scuba diving. Today the lake offers boating, fishing, marinas, restaurants, water skiing, sailing, camping, and many other fun and exciting recreational options.

Two Best Fishing Lakes In Arizona

6.   Bartlett Lake

Series anglers will head for Bartlett Lake to land huge catfish and many other species

SED Travel Photography/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 2,015 acres
  • Max Depth: 174 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Recreational & Tournament Fishing, Large Catfish

Bartlett Lake has been known to produce huge, record-breaking catfish. Beyond big catfish, Bartlett Lake also provides large and smallmouth bass, black crappie, and bluegill. The lake presents multiple environments for fishing including: “grass mats, river channel drops-off, rock piles, cuts and points.”

Bartlett Lake is located in central Arizona, about 45 minutes north of Phoenix by car. Anglers can find tournaments happening regularly. It’s not a difficult lake to fish so beginners and children can often be spotted.

Pro-tip for anglers, Arizona Game & Fish introduced artificial habitats throughout the lake. Be sure to review these for a better chance at landing a nice catch!

7.   Saguaro Lake

Take a cruise on the Desert Belle at Saguaro Lake or land a trophy-winning bass!

iStock.com/Monica Lara

  • Surface Area: 1,264 acres
  • Max Depth: 110 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Trophy Bass Fishing

Saguaro Lake is definitely a destination spot for any avid angler. In addition to the trophy fishing available, canyon walls along the lake’s backdrop provide a majestic beauty for hikers, hunters, picnickers, and scenic drives.

If you’re specifically interested in landing a trophy bass Oct-Dec and Feb through mid-April are your best bets. Bass up to twelve pounds swim the waters of Saguaro Lake. Carp reaching up to thirty pounds have also been pulled from the lake.

If fishing isn’t in your plans there are other options available including a narrated cruise on the Desert Belle or kayaking, sailing, skiing, and even jet skiing!

The Largest Lake In Arizona

8.   Lake Powell

Enormous Lake Powell spans two states and offers every outdoor recreational activity imaginable

worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 162,624 acres
  • Max Depth: 558 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Scnery, Canyons & The Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Lake Powell is enormous. Because of its massive size, a good portion of it is located in Utah with some of it stretching into northeastern Arizona. It’s a unique body of water that essentially fills up several canyons.

The lake was intentionally created through the controversial construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.

It’s safe to say nearly any imaginable outdoor activity is possible at Lake Powell. From golf to high-end resorts, fishing, and camping, it’s all there. You might even catch a movie or television show being filmed. The Hollywood of Arizona lakes maybe?

Best Smaller Fishing Lake In Arizona

9.   Martinez Lake

Anglers looking to fish away from the large crowds know to head for Matinez Lake. Or maybe just check out the Martinez Lake Resort!

KDzPloch/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 1,431 acres
  • Max Depth: 10 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Great Fishing

If you’re looking for a lake that’s not one of the larger, more well-known, and potentially packed then Martinez Lake is your destination. It’s been rated in the top five best lakes to fish and sometimes avoiding the crowds is exactly what’s required for a good experience.

Anglers can expect to catch Large and smallmouth bass, striped bass, crappie, bullhead catfish, channel catfish, flatheads, tilapia, redear, sunfish, bluegill, and carp.

Another great aspect of Lake Martinez is the privately-owned Martinez Lake Resort. Originally started as a fishing camp in 1955 the resort has grown into a year-round destination spot.

Two Under the Radar Lakes in Arizona

10. Apache Lake

Apache Lake is a smaller body of water with no shortage of beautiful natural attractions and great fishing.

Jon Manjeot/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 2,568 acres
  • Max Depth: 255 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Hidden Gem, Fishing, Uncrowded

According to the apachelake.com website, Apache Lake is the “only lake in Arizona that has rooms near the water and walk-in distance beaches.” If your version of a lake trip is remote and uncrowded set your sights on Apache Lake.

Apache Lake is contained by Horse Mesa Dam. It’s located between Canyon and Roosevelt Lake. Anglers can enjoy catching several varieties of bass, catfish, and carp.

There is an abundance of scenic beauty present at Apache Lake where you can often spot javelina, bighorn sheep, and deer. Another attraction is the ancient cliff dwellings at the nearby Tonto National Monument.

11. Patagonia Lake

Locals and travelers in the know love Patagonia Lake for a fully natural experience without a lot of noise from powered watercraft

Gabriel Walter Farmer 1/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 220 acres
  • Max Depth: 120 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Canoes, Row, Paddle, Pontoon ONLY
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Hidden Gem, Fishing, Camping, Picnicking

If you’re looking for a natural, serene experience at a beautiful body of water in Arizona then make the drive to Patagonia Lake. Check the website for events such as family campouts and guided bird walks.

In addition to the mind-bending scenery, there aren’t any loud motors from boats or personal watercraft. The lake’s water can still be explored by canoe, row & paddle boat, and pontoon.

You’re not going to find fancy resorts or hotels at Patagonia Lake. Cabins and camping are available and only add to the natural awesomeness of the Patagonia experience.

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About the Author

Sean is a professionally published author, mostly in the tech space. He's worked as a writer, editor, and reviewer for O'Reilly Media, Adobe, Manning, Addison-Wesley, and many more. Sean is also a lifelong musician and writes about audio production. Recently he's been focused on web3 and music NFTs.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are the best fish to catch in Arizona lakes?

Some of the best fish to catch in Arizona lakes include flathead catfish, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and walleye.

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