Watson Lake, Arizona, USA

Also known as:  Watson Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Watson Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Watson Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Watson Lake

Watson Lake is one of two reservoirs (Willow Creek Lake being the other) located within the Granite Dells just outside of Prescott in North Central Arizona. The Granite Dells are a unique geological feature consisting of massive granite boulders that have eroded into rounded bumpy and unusual shapes giving the rocks a rippled appearance. The two lakes combined with numerous hiking trails offer a great place for boating, picnicking, hiking, and birding. For those who remember the movie, Billy Jack, Watson Lake was used for many scenes in the film.

Watson Lake, named after Senator James Watson of Indiana, a principal investor in the Arizona Land and Irrigation Company, is a 380-acre lake that was formed in the early 1900s when the Chino Valley Irrigation District built a dam on Granite Creek. The City of Prescott bought the reservoir and surrounding land in 1997 to preserve it as recreational land. Watson Lake is located about four miles from downtown Prescott and features fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking rock climbing, camping, birding, and day picnicking.

Boats with gas powered and electric powered motors are allowed on Watson Lake, but there is a maximum five mile an hour “no wake” speed limit. The calm water is perfect for kayaks and canoes which are available for rent if you do not have your own. There is one boat ramp for easy access onto the lake.

Anglers can fish from boats or from the shore of Watson Lake. Fish varieties include largemouth bass, crappie, yellow bullhead, bluegill and sunfish. May and June are the best months for sunfish activity. Kids will have a great time fishing from shore or from a floating dock. A fish cleaning station is available for anyone thinking of having fish for lunch or dinner.

Overnight and RV camping is allowed on Watson Lake during the summer months only. There are no hookups on Watson Lake but there are other campgrounds near the lake that offer water and electrical hookups. Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, BBQ grills, covered gazebos, horseshoe pits, and playground equipment is available for visitors to Watson Lake. Although the water is clear and the air is warm, swimming is not allowed in the lake.

Hikers visiting Watson Lake will want to explore the Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail which runs along the southeastern side of the lake and into the scenic Granite Dells region. The nearly level, packed-gravel trail is well used by joggers, walkers, cyclists, and equestrians. The Peavine Trail intersects with the Iron King Trail which continues on into the Prescott Valley. A 125-acre Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is located near the Peavine Trail and offers bird watchers a chance to spot hundreds of bird species including eagles and hawks.

Rock climbers will want to tackle the challenging granite formations that surround Watson Lake. Mountain rescue groups use the area for training.

If primitive camping isn’t your idea of fun, the city of Prescott offers all sorts of vacation rentals. Just four miles from Watson Lake, Prescott is a small, but thriving city on the northern edge of the rugged Bradshaw Mountains. Prescott weather offers four mild seasons and low humidity throughout the year. Restaurants, shopping, and multiple golf courses are available throughout the city. If you are interested in doing some traveling, Phoenix is 75 minutes away and you can make it to Las Vegas in just under four hours. The Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and other national parks and lakes are also within close range of Watson Lake.

Located in the beautiful Granite Dells, Watson Lake offers breathtaking scenery and quiet spots for kayaking, hiking, fishing and daydreaming. Just minutes away from downtown Prescott, you can wander through an art gallery, listen to a concert, plan a picnic or just enjoy a peaceful solitary day on the water. With so much to see and do, the choices are endless.

Things to Do at Watson Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish Species Found at Watson Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Yellow Bullhead

Find Places to Stay at Watson Lake

If you’re considering a Watson Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Watson Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Watson Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Watson Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: City of Prescott

Surface Area: 380 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,100 feet

Average Depth: 50 feet

Maximum Depth: 75 feet

Water Volume: 4,600 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1914

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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