Arizona’s Saguaro Lake: Water, Cactus and Mountain Views

by Nancy Zaffaro
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When visiting the Phoenix area, a great trip not at all far from town, is to board the Desert Belle for a 90 minute cruise on Saguaro Lake. Sit back, chat with your companions or fellow passengers, snap photos, and just relax. It’s a great little trip for all ages—and an especially good outing for out-of-town visitors, multi-generational groups, or just a day trip away from the city.

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Make a full day of it and hike, visit the beaches, kayak or rent a motor boat from the marina, and go out for a good meal before or afterwards.

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The 143-passenger boat has two levels and good viewing from any seat. Seats are not assigned and you’re free to get up, walk around and enjoy the views from any part of the boat. The upper level is shaded and open air, and the lower level is partially air-conditioned during warm weather. There’s a snack bar that sells both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. (Bonus: a beverage is included with your ticket.) Bring your own snacks as well, either from home or from the restaurant or snack bar at the marina.

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Enjoy Sonoran Desert views, including canyon walls, the state’s largest concentration of saguaros, and stunning views of the prominent Four Peaks mountain range. (If the view of the Four Peaks looks familiar, it’s because they are represented on Arizona license plates.)

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With luck, you’ll see some of the area’s birds (vulture, falcon, eagle or hawk) or land animals (bobcat, mountain lion, coyote, javalina, bighorn sheep or deer.)

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The cruise makes a loop around the lake, passing Peregrine Cove, Camper’s Cove, Skunk Wash, around a deep bend past Shiprock, on past Hidden Cove and Richard’s Rock. On the return trip the cruise passes Bagley Flats, the Snags, the Meadows, Razerback Point, and Captain’s Nook.

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Some of the cruises are narrated, while some have live music aboard. On the day my friends and I are there, the Kniffen Project performed folk and pop tunes. Singer/guitarist Stefanie Kniffen enjoys the performing on these cruises. “The people are great, are from all over, and the scenery is just beautiful.” Agreed.

Stefanie Kniffen of the Kniffen Project performs.

Stefanie Kniffen of the Kniffen Project performs.

Saguaro Lake is about a 20 minute drive from Mesa and about 50 minutes from Phoenix. Within the Tonto National Forest, Saguaro Lake was formed by the Stewart Mount Dam, and is part of the Reservoir on the Salt River.

Saguaro Lake Marina

Saguaro Lake Marina

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-All photos by Nancy Zaffaro.

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