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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

Help Save Our Community
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country and even more so this community. Supporting local businesses during this crisis can help keep our community economically viable. Please strongly consider supporting the businesses below, In&Out Magazine's display advertisers, as well as those in the Classifieds section of the magazine (see the full April 9 issue in PDF form). Many of these businesses have been part of the fabric of this community for two decades, not just serving our professional, service and retail needs but stepping up to support local charities, sports teams and so much more. Tip: If you know you’ll need to schedule a service, consider contacting a local business you trust and paying the standard fee for the deferred service. The links below go to their web sites.

Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates • 602-242-4592
Anthem Senior Living • 602-909-9550
Appliance Pros • 502-501-5501
Business Network of Anthem • 623-455-9630
Carroll Law Firm • 623-551-9366
Century 21 Real Estate - Jeff Huff • 623-223-1221
Creative Home Enhancements • 623-551-5409
Daisy Dream Homes Real Estate • 623-879-3277
Daisy Mountain Dentistry • 623-551-5250
Desert Foothills Air Conditioning • 480-595-0938
Edward Jones • 623-551-0523
Element Dental Centers • 623-551-5555
Hand & Stone Massage • 623-551-6602
Kendallwood Design • 602-252-3844
Kodiak Roofing • 602-501-7717
Luv My PC • 480-703-6609
Merrill Gardens • 623-201-4881
North Valley Water Solutions • 623-551-0515
Preferred Business of Anthem • 623-551-0523 
Prickett Realty • 623-551-8111
ProSkill Services • 623-551-7473
RE/MAX Professionals - Mike Higgins • 623-640-7502
Rise Above Remodeling • 623-551-2013
Soft Water Plus • 623-551-7383
SonoranScapes Landscaping • 602-842-9948
State Farm Insurance - Justin Simons • 623-551-3700
Storage at Anthem • 623-226-8634
Sunset Cabinets • 623-687-6579
Thompson & McGinnis Attorneys at Law • 602-952-2666
Titan Tree Care • 623-444-8448
Titan Pest Control • 623-879-8700
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical • 623-551-6688

For more local businesses, see In&Out Magazine Classifed Ads >>>