Saguaro Lake, Arizona, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Arizona - North Central -

Also known as:  Saguaro Reservoir

Saguaro Lake is located in the Tonto National Forest within Maricopa County, about 40 miles east of Phoenix. It is a true desert oasis for Valley residents needing some rest and relaxation. The 1,264-acre lake stretches 10 miles long, providing recreational users with 20 miles of scenic shoreline. Driving along its shores, you will be awed by the breathless beauty of the steep cliffs, crystal blue water, and surrounding flora. The lake is named after the Saguaro cactus that is seen throughout the desert landscape.

The Tonto National Forest is the fifth largest forest in North America. It contains almost three million acres of terrain, and boasts a variety of plants due to its variation in altitude, between 1000 and 7900 feet. It is one of the most visited urban-area forests in the nation. The national forest preserves the watersheds and reservoirs contained within its expansive borders.

Saguaro Lake is the last of four reservoirs along the Salt River operated by the Salt River Project. The four reservoirs form a continuous chain of lakes almost 60 miles long. The Project is a cooperative effort between the Bureau of Reclamation and the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association for water supply and electricity generation. Created by construction of the Stewart Mountain Dam in 1930, Saguaro Reservoir provides flood control, irrigation water, hydroelectric generation, and recreation for the Phoenix area. The Dam was named after the Stewart Ranch located nearby.

Saguaro Lake spans out over 1,200 acres when at full operating capacity, with an average depth of about 90 feet. The reservoir provides year round enjoyment with temperatures ranging from 25 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The Saguaro Lake Recreation Area, also known as Saguaro del Norte, is located near the dam and includes a marina with a restaurant and boat rentals, boat ramps, a swimming beach, plus picnic and restroom facilities. The Bagley Flat Campground with 30 spaces is accessible only by boat. Because Saguaro Lake has a maximum boating capacity, visitors should arrive early during the busy months from April through October.

Anglers flock to Saguaro Lake for catches of rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow bass, black crappie, sunfish, channel catfish and walleye. The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks Saguaro Lake with rainbow trout. More than 2,000 fish-habitat structures were installed to enhance lake fishing. According to Bass Master Magazine, the best months for catching trophy bass (12+ pounds) are October to December and February to April.

For landlubbers who want to enjoy Saguaro Lake on foot, the Butcher Jones Trail is a 4-mile hike (2 miles down, 2 miles back) with spectacular views of the lake below. The rocky, narrow trail is of moderate difficulty, generally hugging the shoreline with detours through Saguaro cactus and shade trees. And for serious sports enthusiasts, the Saguaro Lake Triathlon is held in April, with a 1500 meter swim, a 30 mile bike route, and a 5.5 mile trail run. Participants and spectators alike enjoy the post-race celebration.

As you travel around Saguaro Lake and the Tonto National Forest, watch for the incredible variety of flora and fauna. The saguaro, prickly pear, and jumping cholla cactus dot the desert-like terrain. Bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, javelina, black bear, and deer are some of the species that occupy the higher elevations of the forest. Don’t forget to look up at the sky and watch for vultures, falcons, eagles, and hawks.

With so much to see and do, there’s no doubt that Saguaro Lake is an oasis within the hot desert landscape of Arizona.

Things to do at Saguaro Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Saguaro Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Bass

Saguaro Lake Photo Gallery

Saguaro Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Salt River Project

Surface Area: 1,264 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,529 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,533 feet

Average Depth: 90 feet

Maximum Depth: 116 feet

Water Volume: 69,175 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1930

Drainage Area: 6,330 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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