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Water Fun

Arizona isn’t known for wetlands, but over 30 lakes and numerous rivers offer plenty of water adventures. Major artificial lakes and hot, sunny days offer boating, jetskiing, and other water fun for most months of the year. Smaller dammed ponds like Parker Canyon Lake offer oases to riparian creatures and more opportunity for fishing, boating, or just kicking back. 

People who live in a dry climate usually appreciate water wherever it’s found. Tubing on the Salt River, canoeing on the Verde, or kayaking on a hidden lake in an Arizona state park are beloved recreation activities. Many hiking trails explore seasonal streams or permanent riparian areas. Some are near civilization, and some take you away for days. 

It’s easy to find fishing and boating opportunities with the Fish&Boat Arizona Map. Paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes are available on smaller lakes throughout Arizona. Create your own adventure and enjoy Arizona’s beautiful weather.

Salt River

The Upper Salt River Canyon invites exploration.

The Salt River's Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake beckon boaters and fishers of all types, offering the added bonus of hiking and exploring  in the nearby Tonto National Forest.

The Salt River drops an average of 25 feet per mile, winding through terrain from granite gorges to oak and juniper woodlands to majestic Saguaro forests of the Lower Sonoran Desert. Called the “Jewel of the Desert” and fed by spring runoff from the White Mountains, a well timed trip features the added bonus of an explosion of wildflowers as well as world-class rapids.

The most popular stretch, between Globe and Show Low, features Class III and Class IV rapids. Trips can range from one to five days, with opportunities to explore side canyons with flourishing microclimates and to put in on beaches only accessible by raft.

Folks who want a lazier ride will enjoy tubing down the Lower Salt River outside Mesa. A short drive from Phoenix, this Maricopa County tradition beats the heat from late May to September.

Visit the Sports and Recreation playlist on the Arizona Experience You Tube channel for more on Salt River rafting, boating, and and tubing!

Verde River

Canoers explore the Verde River, Arizona's only federally protected river under the Wild and Scenic Act.

Arizona's only federally designated "Wild and Scenic" River provides a seasonal treat for the outdoor adventurer. Rafters and kayakers can feast their eyes on a smorgasbord of riparian critters including black bears, otters, golden eagles, and abundant bird life—even the rare desert bald eagle—while passing sandy beaches and banks shaded by cottonwoods, sycamores and sage.

The river drops at an average rate of 20 feet per mile, but rafting conditions largely depend on rainfall. During wet years, the river is high enough in February and March to operate conventional fifteen foot rafts. More reliable transportation is the inflatable kayak, which is available in spring and in the winter season, when a base flow of 150–200 cubic feet per second offers Class II and III rapids will lots of twists and chutes. No experience is necessary to guide these inflatable kayaks, known as “duckies.”

Colorado River

The painted canyons of the Colorado Plateau offer truly breathtaking rafting opportunities along the Colorado River. Grand Canyon raft trips ranging from three to fourteen days are very popular and are considered by many to be the adventure of a lifetime.   

Raft trips south of the Grand Canyon are popular, too. Begin in Bullhead City and float through Black Canyon on an eleven mile tour that includes hot springs, or travel farther south and launch at Lake Havasu’s Topcock Bridge and enjoy scenic canyons and rock formations.

Large lakes on the Colorado promise boating adventures with a splash. Thanks to Arizona’s dam system, Colorado River’s major lakes, Lake Powell, Lake Mead, and Lake Havasu are havens for motorboats, usually toting waterskiers and wakeboarders. In fact, Lake Havasu boasts the title of “Personal Watercraft Capital of the World.” Rent a jetski or get a new perspective with a parasailing adventure. Or just kick back and enjoy the world class fishing opportunities.