San Carlos Lake, Arizona, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Arizona - North Central -

San Carlos Lake is on the San Carlos Apache Native American Reservation in north-central Arizona. With 19,500 surface acres of water when full, San Carlos Lake is one of the largest lakes that lies entirely in the borders of Arizona. The crystal blue waters offer a refreshing contrast to the Sonoran Desert that surrounds the lake. Although San Carlos Lake is located on a Native American Reservation, the lake is open to the general public upon the purchase of a permit. Recreational activities are abundant and include hunting, fishing, and camping.

The desert setting of San Carlos Lake creates a challenge of keeping water levels regulated. In fact, after Coolidge Dam was built in 1930, creating San Carlos Lake, President Calvin Coolidge and comedian Will Rogers gazed at a dry lake during its dedication. Will Rogers stated, “If this was my lake, I’d mow it.” Coolidge Dam was constructed on the Gila River to provide irrigation to the neighboring farm lands. Due to its desert surroundings and purpose as a water source for irrigation, San Carlos Lake is not always at full capacity. When the heat of summer is intense and there is little or no rain, the lake is draw down to irrigate nearby farms. When this happens San Carlos lake looks more like a pond than a lake; however, new salt cedar bushes grow where the water has evaporated. When the lake fills again with water, re-stocking of fish takes place and the new growth of plants makes a healthy environment where the fish can thrive.

Anglers benefit from re-stocking of San Carlos Lake and find it is an excellent place to fish. Warm water and cold water fishing are both allowed with a permit. Game fish species include trout, bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, carp, bullhead, black crappie, and bluegill. Fish enthusiasts are not the only ones who delight in visiting San Carlos Lake; nature lovers and hunters know that wildlife is plentiful along the 158 miles of shoreline and throughout San Carlos Native American Reservation. Hunting for big and small game is popular, with elk, antelope, black bear, migratory birds and bighorn sheep roaming the desert landscape.

The location of San Carlos Lake is ideal for vacation travelers who want some diversity in their scenery. Lake visitors can enjoy the Sonoran Desert atmosphere around San Carlos Lake, then cool off in one of three national forests located close by. To the south of San Carlos Lake, travelers will find Coronado National Forest that covers 1,780,000 acres in both Arizona and New Mexico. This national forest is made up of 12 widely scattered mountain ranges, also known as sky islands. These mountain ranges tower over the desert providing vastly different environments that many visitors will find refreshing. The other two national forests are Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest located to the northeast, and Tonto National Forest located to the northwest. Tonto National Forest covers almost three million acres of land and is the fifth largest forest in the United States, while Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest covers two million acres. All three national forest are recreational wonderlands and provide outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, and nature observation.

Shopping, fine dining, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfast accommodations can also be found near San Carlos Lake. Both Phoenix and Tucson are easy day trips from the lake. For those who fall in love with the climate and people may want to make this area of Arizona their home. Real estate in the Phoenix and Tucson areas is abundant, with home owners having the benefit of city life with the retreat of peaceful San Carlos lake close by. Sightseers who prefer small towns to big cities may want to visit the nearby town of San Carlos, which is known to have the world’s largest deposit of Peridot. This August birthstone is crafted into jewelry by local artisans and jewelers and can be found in many stores in San Carlos. Buying hand-crafted Peridot jewelry is a great way to take a bit of Arizona home with you.

The San Carlos Lake area is an excellent vacation getaway, whether it is for a week or one day away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The serene desert setting with the refreshing blue waters will offer tranquility to all who visit.

Things to do at San Carlos Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at San Carlos Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

San Carlos Lake Photo Gallery

    San Carlos Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

    divider

    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Surface Area: 19,500 acres

    Shoreline Length: 158 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,425 feet

    Maximum Depth: 75 feet

    Water Volume: 900,000 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1930

    Spread the word! Share our San Carlos Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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."


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    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.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.