Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking
Spring/Summer 2017 Outlook
- ‘Unusually High’ Lake Pleasant Leaves Limited Shoreline
- Shoreline Access Updates
- Camping Reservations
Why You Should Go
Phoenix residents flock to the lake to enjoy the many water sports. It has long been a fisherman’s paradise, and now boaters, kayakers, water-boarders, jet-skiers and swimmers relish the clear water and secluded coves. For those who just like being near the water, there are camping sites, picnic areas and restaurants that offer a relaxing day near the water while enjoying Arizona’s sunshine or the spectacular, star filled night sky.
The marinas, Scorpion Bay and Pleasant Harbor, offer permanent slips and boat rentals, and there are fuel facilities and launch ramps for day-trippers. Each has a restaurant and a sundry shop. The marinas rent ski/wakeboard boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, personal watercraft, and equipment for wakeboarding and skiing. The marinas are competitive, and locals have their preferences, but the differences are not dramatic. Pleasant Harbor is about 10 minutes closer to I-17.
From the Discovery Center, rangers give guided hikes and nature explorations on a regular basis.
When To Go
Because of the cooling waters of the lake, this desert regional park is a great destination any time of year. The lake can be very crowded on summer weekends, but weekdays are comparatively quiet. You’ll find wakeboarder and tubers from early spring until late, late fall.
The lake level fluctuates significantly during the year, in some years leaving long, tall shorelines by summer’s end.
Dogs are welcome in the park but must always remain on a leash and all waste must be cleaned up and properly disposed.
Trails (Trail Map)
- Wild Burro Trail – 2 miles
- Frog Tank – 0.3 miles
- Cottonwood Trail – 1,2 miles
- Pipeline Canyon Trail – 2 miles
- Roadrunner Trail – 0.8 miles
- Yavapai Point Trail – 1.5 miles
- Beardsley Trail – 4.4 miles
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department has deputies on the water, and boating laws are strictly enforced.
The lake is surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, so all desert safety precautions are recommended: good shoes, wide-brimmed hat, sun-screen and adequate water.
The vision to build a lake in the mid-1920s in the middle of the Sonoran Desert goes to three men with familiar names – William H. Beardsley, Carl Pleasant and Donald Waddell. They dreamed of and then watched the construction as the largest, multiple arched concrete dam in the world was built across the Agua Fria River and became a part of their own, private irrigation project.
When completed in 1927, the Waddell Dam (76 feet high, 2,160 feet long) create a 3,000-acre lake, which provided a constant supply of water for irrigation and soon became a popular fishing lake.
In 1992 a new Waddell Dam was completed, allowing Lake Pleasant to more than triple in size. In Arizona, only Roosevelt Lake located on the Salt River remains larger.
Water from both the Agua Fria and the Colorado Rivers is now collected behind the new Waddell Dam and stored as a key part of the Central Arizona Project. More than 50 miles of shoreline now exist, with 10,000 acres of water. The old, 1927 Waddell Dam was breached and remains today north of the new dam, typically submerged about 100 feet.
DISTANCE from I-17/Carefree Highway: 17.6 miles
- Day-Use Entry (non-camping): 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
- Camping: Available 24 hours, 365 days a year (camping pass and/or reservation required)
COST: $6.00/vehicle park entry.