Insider Tips From Local Experts

Scottsdale Stories

Lakes and Rivers Near Scottsdale

Does the beach life call your name? Well, it might surprise you to know that Scottsdale has a beach life of its own! But for water lovers of all kinds, there are plenty of lakes and rivers near Scottsdale that offer recreation options galore. From boating, kayaking, fishing, SUPing and river rafting to shore-side hiking and historic steamboat tours, you’ll enjoy hours of fun under the sun in a breathtaking Sonoran Desert setting.


Salt River

Salt River Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit: Jeff Moore

The scenic Salt River, located about 30 miles east of Scottsdale, offers river runners two distinct personalities. For calm-water rafting, tubing, kayaking, SUPing, canoeing and fishing, the serene Lower Salt River is your girl. As you float peacefully along, you’ll enjoy stunning views of towering cliffs, lush riparian areas and desert wildlife. Looking for more adventure? The wild-child Upper Salt River offers whitewater thrills on class III and IV rapids (seasonal) with such colorful names as “Maytag,” “Overboard” and “Mescal Falls.”

Activities:  Tubing, kayaking, SUPing, canoeing, fishing, whitewater rafting.

On-site rentals: Salt River Tubing

  • For rafting, kayak and paddleboard companies, click here

Directions: Lower Salt, click here; Upper Salt, click here


Verde River

Verde River Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

The southern portion of the Verde River, near its confluence with the Salt River, is another popular spot for rafting, kayaking, fishing, birding and photography. The Verde’s peaceful waters and riparian surroundings make it an excellent spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Sonoran Desert from the water or the shore.

Activities:  Rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, birding, camping and photography.

On-site rentals: None

  • For rafting, kayak and paddleboard companies, click here


Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit: Rich Herrmann

Saguaro Lake, created by the Stewart Mountain Dam, is located 35 miles northeast of Old Town Scottsdale. The lake boasts more than 22 miles of shoreline and plenty of on-the-water-fun, including power boating, water skiing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. At the marina, you can rent a runabout, fishing or pontoon boat, or take a 90-minute guided tour on a double-decker paddleboat, the Desert Belle. The Shiprock Restaurant offers tasty cuisine and panoramic scenic views.

Activities:  Power boating, water skiing, sailing, kayaking, camping and fishing

On-site rentals: Runabout, fishing or pontoon boat


Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Located in the heart of the Tonto National Forest just 50 minutes north of Old Town Scottsdale, this desert gem offers a full-service marina with pontoon and ski boat rentals, a general store, and dock-side grill.  Other popular pastimes at Bartlett Lake include water skiing, jet skiing and fishing.

Activities:   Hiking, camping, boating, water skiing, fishing, paddle boarding

On-site rentals: Boat rentals, jet skis, paddleboards


Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant Scottsdale Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit: Jim Trottier

A scenic one-hour drive northwest from Old Town Scottsdale will take you to Lake Pleasant, one of the largest lakes in the area. Lake Pleasant offers more than 50 miles of shoreline and 10,000 acres of clear blue water perfect for boating, house boating, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing and fishing. Twelve species of fish are stocked in Lake Pleasant, including large-mouth, white and striped bass; bluegill, tilapia and crappie. Hikers can enjoy the scenic 1.5-mile Roadrunner Trail or easier half-mile Visitor Center Trail with interpretive signage.

Activities:   Hiking, camping, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, fishing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, swimming

On-site rentals: Boat rentals, jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards, water toys


Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit:  CEBImagery

Canyon Lake, located an easy one-hour drive from Old Town, offers spectacular views of red-rock canyon walls and unusual rock formations. This lake lies in the Superstition Mountain Wilderness area and is the gateway to the Apache Trail, which leads to both Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake. Recreational options include scenic hiking around the shore, as well as well as boating, water skiing, fishing, and jet skiing. For a real treat, take the Dolly Steamboat cruise and listen as your captain narrates the legends and lore of the mysterious Superstition Mountains.

Activities:    Water skis, jet skis, sailing, fishing, camping, swimming, hiking

On-site rentals: Runabouts, pontoons and fishing boats, canoes, water ski equipment, fishing supplies, RV and tent campsites



Apache Lake

Apache Lake Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston

Just up the picturesque Apache Trail from Canyon Lake is Apache Lake. High canyon walls and deep mountain valleys accent one of the most beautiful landscapes in Arizona. There are several miles of dirt road leading to Apache Lake, but it is still accessible to most passenger cars. Though small, this lake is a spectacular site for boating, fishing, water skiing and hiking. The marina offers pontoon boat rentals for a fun and easy way to explore the lake.

Activities:   Boating, fishing, water sports, hiking, camping

On-site rentals: Pontoon boat, RV and tent campsites


Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake Scottsdales Scenic Waterways

Photo Credit: Fred Moore

Head a little further up the Apache Trail and you’ll come to Roosevelt Lake. This 17-mile-long beauty is the largest lake in the Scottsdale area and was formed in 1911 with the construction of Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River. Roosevelt Lake is a favorite of anglers searching for the trophy largemouth bass along with smallmouth bass, channel catfish and crappie. Water-skiing, jet-skiing, swimming and general boating recreation makes Lake Roosevelt a favorite destination among locals and visitors alike. The lake offers full marina amenities and a general store, as well as kayak, ski and pontoon boat rentals.

Activities:   Boating, jet-skiing, sailing, swimming, fishing, camping

On-site rentals: Ski and pontoon boat rentals, kayaks,  RV campground


Chaparral Lake

Indian Bend WashLocated along the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt, right in the heart of Scottsdale, is Chaparral Lake. This lake is an urban boater and fishers dream. Here you can canoe, row, kayak and boat (electric motors); no inflatable rafts or gas-powered boats are allowed.  The lake is stocked by AZ Game & Fish throughout the year. During the cooler months, October to March, the lake is stocked twice each month with trout. During the warmer months, April to July and September to October, the lake is stocked twice each month with catfish.

Activities: Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating (electric), walking, jogging, biking

On-site rentals: None



For guided adventures on Scottsdale's scenic waterways, contact one of our professional adventure outfitters!