Watson Lake, Arizona, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Arizona - North Central -

Also known as:  Watson Reservoir

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

Watson Lake Photo Gallery

Watson Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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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

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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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