For 15 years, In&Out Magazine has been the definitive source of “Everything that’s going on” in and out of the community. We thank you, our readers, as well as the businesses that support the magazine through advertising, for that opportunity. But with little going on, and many businesses suspending or canceling their ads during the Covid-19 crisis, we are suspending publication of the magazine and web sites for the month of May. 

Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking

Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking

One of eleven regional parks in the Maricopa County Park system, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is the only one with a lake — the second largest lake in Arizona. There are two marinas serving as launch points for a full range of water sports, from boating, sailing and skiing to fishing or kayaking. Plus there are several trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. For resident in the North Phoenix area this nearby water paradise — just 20 minutes off I-17 — has become a Sonoran Desert treasure.

scorpion bay marina
Scorpion Bay Marina at Lake Pleasant. Photos by Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher

Spring/Summer 2017 Outlook

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

Be Safe

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.

Where Phoenix Water Comes From

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.

Camping Fees

41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, AZ
Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher
Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher are retired Arizona public school educators who brought their wealth of Arizona knowledge to the In&Out Publications team in 2007. Together they have been teaching and writing about the state since the 1970s. The Buschers co-authored an Arizona history program titled “Ali-Shonak: The Story of Arizona,” which is still used in many of the 4th grade classrooms in Anthem and around the state. The Arizona history portion of this program is available in the iTunes bookstore under the title “Arizona: The Grand Adventure.” The Buschers are also authors of “Historic Photos of Arizona,” available at local bookstores.
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Boating, Fishing, Hiking