Rainbow Lake, Arizona, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Arizona - Northern -

Located in Arizona’s resort community of Pinetop-Lakeside, Rainbow Lake’s shores are lined with second homes and private lakeside vacation properties. With limited public access, Phoenix and Tucson residents can leave the rush behind and quietly melt into Navajo County’s countryside. Surrounded by the scenic White Mountains in east-central Arizona, life at Rainbow Lake offers a combination of nature at its best and healthful activity in a small-town atmosphere.

In the mid-to-late 1800s Mormons settled a number of communities in Arizona, including Lakeside. In 1903 the settlers impounded Walnut Creek to create Rainbow Lake, part of Silver Creek subwatershed and Little Colorado watershed. Walnut Creek receives its water from a combination of sources – Adair and Big Springs and a diversion from Billy Creek. Water leaves Rainbow Lake through ditches also built in 1903. The lake’s maximum depth of 14 feet and average depth of seven feet are now maintained by the Show Low Pinetop Woodlands Irrigation Company.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department oversees maintenance of Rainbow Lake’s 116 acres. The state also owns a small campground near Rainbow Lake. While the campground is not directly on the waterfront, it is only a few hundred yards from Rainbow Lake dam. Restrooms, potable water and firewood make up the basic amenities. Boaters will find the only public boat ramp, paved parking lot and handicap accessible fishing pier at the northern end of the lake, also near the dam. Because the majority of Rainbow Lake’s shoreline is privately owned, or shallow with weeds and grasses, fishing is best enjoyed by boat. Fish species include rainbow trout stocked in the spring and early summer, largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and green sunfish. Illegally introduced northern pike are also found in Rainbow Lake. Anglers over the age of 13 will need to purchase an Arizona fishing license with trout stamps. The stated daily catch limit is “six trout for licensed anglers and three trout for unlicensed anglers age 13 or less.” To maintain the residential atmosphere of the lake, boats are restricted to a maximum 10 horsepower gas motor. For a complete vacation package, boat rentals and private piers are available at select Rainbow Lake resorts.

Within Arizona’s Northern Tourism Region and immediately north of Rainbow Lake, Woodland Lake Park also provides excellent fishing opportunities. Woodland Lake is found in a 583-acre park considered to be the “crown jewel” of Pinetop-Lakeside. Facilities found in this family-friendly park include tennis courts, softball fields, volleyball courts, picnic tables with shelters and nearby playgrounds. The park’s four-mile trail is open for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

A few miles northeast of Rainbow Lake, Scott Reservoir lies within Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. In addition to stocked rainbow trout and channel catfish, this 80-acre lake holds generous populations of brown trout, largemouth bass, green sunfish, blue gill, black bull head, and carp. A boat ramp with barrier-free restrooms has been constructed along the lake’s western shore. For those interested in the outdoors, a small campground with restrooms, tables and fire rings provides the peace and calm of a forest retreat while remaining close to Pinetop-Lakeside city limits.

Tha Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests cover over two million acres with some of the country’s largest stands of ponderosa pines and dramatic geologic features. Just 12 miles north of Rainbow Lake, at the town of Show Low, the Mogollon Rim marks the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. At elevations reaching 7,600 feet, canyons, cliffs and rolling terrain provide excellent viewpoints for hikers, wildlife watchers and photographers to capture the scenery or glimpses of antelope, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, small mammals, and reptiles. Almost 1,000 miles of hiking trails are found within the combined forest land including four National Recreation Trails: Eagle, Blue Ridge, Escudilla, and General George Crook.

An hour’s drive north of Rainbow Lake will take you to the spectacular Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. The world’s largest concentration of petrified wood is contained within the park’s 342 square miles. At the northern end of the park the colorful remains of pine logs lie among hills and mountains “painted” by layer upon layer of colored rock. In addition to the geologic history found in the park, petroglyphs and archeological sites tell the ancestral history of the Navajo and Hopi Nations.

Bordering the town of Pinetop-Lakeside and only blocks west of Rainbow Lake is the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Covering over 2,600 square miles, the land is held by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The Apache Office of Tourism offers access to rafting, camping, fishing, hunting and skiing. Indoor attractions include a casino and cultural museum at Fort Apache Historic Park.

Lakefront property swept with refreshing cool mountain breezes is a rare commodity in Arizona. Place that lake in a small community of 5,000 people with family-friendly parks, intriguing historical attractions, winter skiing, and spectacular scenery, and you have created the perfect escape. Located 190 miles northeast of Phoenix and Tucson, Rainbow Lake vacation rentals and real estate properties make it possible for you to call the White Mountains home for a week or a lifetime.

Things to do at Rainbow Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Rainbow Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Rainbow Lake Photo Gallery

    Rainbow Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Show Low Pinetop Woodlands Irrigation Co.

    Surface Area: 116 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,760 feet

    Average Depth: 7 feet

    Maximum Depth: 14 feet

    Water Volume: 800 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1903

    Water Residence Time: 139 days

    Lake Area-Population: 4,765

    Drainage Area: 8 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

    We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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