Desert Harbor Lake, Arizona, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Desert Harbor Lake.

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Desert Harbor Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Southwest - Arizona - Phoenix & Central -

Located in the private community of Desert Harbor, Desert Harbor Lake is just minutes from picturesque Sun City and Phoenix. Part of the Phoenix & Central Arizona Region, the lake is in Peoria, a city that was established in the 1880’s after the completion of the Arizona Canal. William J. Murphy, who had a vision of fertile farmland in the area, went east to bring settlers to this new region of the country. With over 5,000 acres of land being purchased by citizens of Peoria, Illinois, it seemed only fitting to call the town Peoria. Home to over 155,000 residents, it is the ninth largest city in Arizona just minutes northwest of the much larger city of Phoenix.

Originally dug as a one acre lake for migratory birds and wildlife by private owner O. R. Recker, Desert Harbor Lake was sold in the 1970’s as a residential development with 1,000 oversized lots. The lake was expanded to 46 acres. With a maximum depth of 20 feet, Desert Harbor Lake is ideal for leisurely boating (electric motors), sailing, and kayaking/canoeing. Jet skis and swimming, however, are not permitted. Other activities around the lake include biking, hiking, fishing, and picnicking. Anglers should expect to catch tilapia, catfish, Florida hybrid bass, and black crappie. Fishing permits are not needed by waterfront homeowners fishing from their backyards or on the lake in an approved, registered boat with a DH/HOA decal. Fishing from shore is allowed in the two park/picnic areas adjoining the boat ramps but is not allowed in the stream beds or greenbelts.

Other points of interest close to Desert Harbor Lake include Lake Pleasant, the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, and the Challenger Space Center of Arizona. Lake Pleasant is a 10,000 acre lake located on the north end of Peoria. It is the state’s second largest lake and offers activities such as camping, boating, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Situated along the shores of the lake is the Lake Pleasant Recreational Park. This county park, which is an oasis in the middle of a desert, offers a boat launch, picnic tables, campsites, hiking trails, swimming, and fishing.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a 30,000 acre park in Maricopa County located in the rugged White Tank Mountains south of Desert Harbor Lake. Peeks over 4,000 feet rise out of the desert floor in White Tank offering stunning views of the desert below. Activities in the park include mountain biking, camping, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and star gazing. There are 25 miles of excellent shared trails with lengths from 1 mile to 7.9 miles. Overnight backpacking is permitted in designated camping sites but some of the trails to these sites can be difficult to hike. Make sure you are in good shape, have plenty of water, and try not to hike during the summer months. For a more sedate day, head to the Challenger Space Center of Arizona, a working memorial to the astronauts that crashed in 1986 on space shuttle Challenger STS. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, the memorial offers very high quality exhibits in the small town of Peoria. There are educational programs, school camps, stargazing, and the Galaxy Gift Shop.

A stay on Desert Harbor Lake would not be complete without a visit to Phoenix, the largest city in the state and capital of Arizona. The Japanese Friendship Garden, Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, Shemer Art Center, and Steele Indian School Park are just some of the activities in this city located in the “Valley of the Sun”. The Japanese Frienship Garden features 1,500 tons of rock, 50 varieties of plants, a 12-foot waterfall, a Koi pond, and several flowing streams. For a taste of history, head to the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park to see the avenue of flags, historic cemeteries and houses, and benches for contemplations. A monument to the pioneer families of Arizona, the park honors historical figures such as John T. Alsap, the first mayor of Phoenix. To get a feel for the art and cultural history of the area, check out the Pueblo Grande Museum and the Shemer Art Center. Before driving back to Desert Harbor Lake, stop by the Steele Indian School Park, a 75-acre park with a 2.5-acre lake, amphitheater, 15-acre Entry Garden, and three historic buildings in the middle of the park.

Real estate at Desert Harbor Lake is still available for that winter retreat or retirement home of your dreams. And if you plan on just staying for a short time, vacation rentals are readily available in Peoria and the Desert Harbor area. Desert Harbor Lake is a great home base for visiting the central part of Arizona and all it has to offer.

Custom Desert Harbor Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Desert Harbor Lake

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Desert Harbor Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Tilapia

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Desert Harbor Lake

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Desert Harbor Lake photo gallery

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Desert Harbor Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Desert Harbor Homeowners Association

Surface Area: 46 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,167 feet

Maximum Depth: 20 feet

Completion Year: 1985

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