Arizona, known for its mesmerizing desert landscapes and awe-inspiring canyons, offers a multitude of kayaking opportunities for both beginners and experienced paddlers. This diverse state boasts an array of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, providing unique experiences and breathtaking scenery. Here are 10 of the most impressive places to kayak in Arizona:
1. Lake Powell
- Location: Arizona
- Size: 161,390 acres
- Elevation: 3,700 feet
Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States, straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. The lake is known for its striking red rock cliffs and hundreds of miles of shoreline, which provide endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. The many side canyons and inlets offer both leisurely paddling experiences and more challenging routes, catering to a variety of skill levels.
One of the highlights of kayaking on Lake Powell is the chance to explore the numerous slot canyons that can only be accessed by water. These narrow, winding passages offer unique and intimate experiences, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Several marinas and outfitters around Lake Powell provide kayak rentals and guided tours, making it easy to plan your adventure. Keep in mind that permits may be required for overnight trips, and it’s important to practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve this delicate environment.
2. Black Canyon Water Trail
- Location: Lake Mead, National Recreation Area, Arizona/Nevada
- Length: 11.7 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
The Black Canyon Water Trail, located within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, is a popular kayaking destination that follows a section of the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Willow Beach. The trail offers an array of unique experiences, including hot springs, slot canyons, and historical sites.
As you paddle through the canyon, you’ll encounter numerous geological formations, including volcanic cliffs and striking basalt rock formations. The river’s crystal-clear waters provide excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, including sightings of bighorn sheep and various bird species.
Outfitters in the area offer guided tours and shuttle services, making it easy to plan your Black Canyon Water Trail adventure. Permits are required for launching at the Hoover Dam, and a backcountry permit may be necessary for overnight trips.
3. Salt River
- Location: Tonto National Forest, Arizona
- Length: 52 miles
- Difficulty: Varies
The Salt River, which winds through the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona, offers a diverse range of kayaking experiences, from gentle flatwater paddling to adrenaline-pumping whitewater rapids. The river’s stunning desert scenery, combined with its rich wildlife and numerous recreational opportunities, make it a must-visit destination for kayaking enthusiasts.
Flatwater sections of the Salt River, such as the Lower Salt River Recreation Area, are ideal for leisurely paddling and wildlife viewing. This area is home to the Salt River wild horses, as well as a variety of bird species, including bald eagles and great blue herons.
For more experienced paddlers, the Upper Salt River offers challenging Class III-IV rapids and remote wilderness experiences. Permits are required for both day and overnight trips on this section of the river, and guided tours and rentals are available from local outfitters.
4. Lake Havasu
- Location: Lake Havasu City, Arizona
- Size: 19,300 acres
- Elevation: 450 feet
Lake Havasu, situated on the border between Arizona and California, is a popular destination for water sports and recreation. The lake’s warm waters and sunny weather make it an ideal location for kayaking, with numerous coves, inlets, and beaches to explore.
The famous London Bridge, which was relocated from England to Arizona in the 1960s, is a popular starting point for kayaking trips on Lake Havasu. Paddlers can explore the Bridgewater Channel and the many waterfront restaurants and shops that line its shores.
For a more secluded experience, kayakers can venture to the numerous coves and hidden beaches that dot the lake’s shoreline. These tranquil spots provide excellent opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
Several outfitters and marinas around Lake Havasu offer kayak rentals and guided tours, making it easy to plan your adventure. Remember to practice water safety and adhere to local regulations when exploring this popular destination.
5. Canyon Lake
- Location: Tonto National Forest, Arizona
- Size: 950 acres
- Elevation: 1,660 feet
Nestled within the Tonto National Forest, Canyon Lake is a picturesque reservoir surrounded by stunning red rock cliffs and desert vegetation. The lake’s calm waters and numerous coves make it a perfect destination for kayakers of all skill levels.
Paddlers can explore the numerous inlets and hidden beaches that line the lake’s 28-mile shoreline, as well as the dramatic rock formations that tower above the water. Wildlife sightings, including bighorn sheep and various bird species, are common on Canyon Lake, adding to its appeal.
Canyon Lake Marina provides kayak rentals and other watercraft services, making it easy to plan your kayaking adventure. Keep in mind that Canyon Lake is a popular destination, so arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
6. Saguaro Lake
- Location: Tonto National Forest, Arizona
- Size: 1,200 acres
- Elevation: 1,524 feet
Saguaro Lake, named for the iconic cactus species that populate the surrounding desert landscape, is another excellent kayaking destination in Arizona. The lake’s calm waters, scenic shoreline, and abundance of wildlife make it a popular spot for paddlers.
Kayakers can explore the lake’s numerous coves and inlets, which provide opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. The dramatic rock formations and desert vegetation that surround Saguaro Lake create a unique and beautiful backdrop for your adventure.
The Saguaro Lake Marina offers kayak rentals and other watercraft services, making it easy to plan your trip. Keep in mind that Saguaro Lake is a popular destination, so arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
7. Verde River
|Location||Central and Northern Arizona, United States|
|Length||170 miles (274 km)|
|Source||Near Paulden, Yavapai County, Arizona|
|Mouth||Salt River near Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona|
|Major Tributaries||West Clear Creek, Fossil Creek, Oak Creek, Beaver Creek, Wet Beaver Creek|
|Watershed||6,185 square miles (16,000 km2)|
|Major Cities||Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Sedona|
|Recreation||Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, birdwatching|
The Verde River, which flows through central Arizona, offers a diverse range of kayaking experiences, from gentle flatwater paddling to challenging whitewater rapids. The river’s lush riparian habitat, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding desert landscape, provides ample opportunities for wildlife viewing and birdwatching.
The Verde River Greenway, a 36-mile stretch of protected riparian habitat, is a popular destination for flatwater kayaking and wildlife viewing. This section of the river offers gentle currents and numerous access points, making it suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.
More experienced kayakers can explore the river’s whitewater sections, which offer Class II-III rapids and remote wilderness experiences. Local outfitters provide guided tours, rentals, and shuttle services for both flatwater and whitewater sections of the Verde River.
8. Lake Mohave
|Location||Between Nevada and Arizona on the Colorado River|
|Surface Area||28,260 acres|
|Maximum Depth||120 feet|
|Average Depth||30 feet|
|Shoreline Length||237 miles|
|Water Temperature||Summer – 75 to 85 °F / Winter – 45 to 55 °F|
|Popular Activities||Boating, fishing, swimming, water sports, camping|
|Surrounding Cities||Bullhead City, AZ / Laughlin, NV / Needles, CA|
|Managed By||National Park Service|
Lake Mohave, situated within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, is a scenic reservoir that offers diverse kayaking experiences. The lake’s clear waters, numerous coves, and striking desert scenery make it an appealing destination for paddlers.
Paddlers can explore the many inlets and secluded beaches that line the lake’s 237-mile shoreline, as well as the dramatic rock formations that tower above the water. The lake’s numerous coves provide excellent opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing.
Several marinas and outfitters around Lake Mohave offer kayak rentals and guided tours, making it easy to plan your adventure. Keep in mind that permits may be required for certain activities within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and it’s important to practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve this delicate environment.
9. Patagonia Lake
|Location||Santa Cruz County, Arizona|
|Surface area||265 acres (107 ha)|
|Max. depth||80 feet (24 m)|
|Shore length||2.5 miles (4.0 km)|
|Surface elevation||3,750 feet (1,140 m) above sea level|
|Activities||Fishing, swimming, boating, camping, hiking|
|Fish species||Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, catfish|
|Park facilities||Campsites, picnic areas, boat ramp, rental boats, hiking trails|
Patagonia Lake, located within Patagonia Lake State Park in southern Arizona, is a serene and picturesque destination for kayaking enthusiasts. The lake’s calm waters and lush surroundings provide a tranquil setting for paddling and enjoying the beauty of nature.
Kayakers can explore the lake’s numerous coves and inlets, which are home to a variety of bird species, including the rare elegant trogon. The lake’s shoreline also provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, and hiking, making it an ideal destination for a full day of outdoor recreation.
Patagonia Lake State Park offers kayak rentals and other watercraft services, making it easy to plan your trip. Keep in mind that the park has an entrance fee, and it’s important to adhere to local regulations and Leave No Trace principles during your visit.
10. Lake Pleasant
|Location||Morristown, Arizona, USA|
|Primary inflows||Agua Fria River|
|Primary outflows||Agua Fria River|
|Catchment area||1,459 square miles (3,780 km2)|
|Surface area||23.4 sq mi (60 km2)|
|Max. depth||260 ft (79 m)|
|Shore length||116 miles (187 km)|
|Capacity||1,130,000 acre⋅ft (1.39 km3)|
|Purpose||Water storage, flood control, recreation|
|Recreational uses||Boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, RVs|
Lake Pleasant, situated within Lake Pleasant Regional Park in central Arizona, is a popular destination for water sports and recreation. The lake’s large size and diverse shoreline offer numerous opportunities for kayaking and exploration.
Paddlers can venture to the lake’s numerous coves and inlets, which provide excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, birdwatching, and fishing. The Agua Fria River Arm, located in the northern section of the lake, is a particularly scenic area to explore by kayak.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park offers kayak rentals and other watercraft services, making it easy to plan your adventure. Keep in mind that the park has an entrance fee, and it’s important to adhere to local regulations and Leave No Trace principles during your visit.
Arizona’s diverse landscapes and waterways provide a wide range of kayaking experiences for paddlers of all skill levels. From serene desert lakes to thrilling whitewater rivers, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful state. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore these 10 spectacular kayaking destinations in Arizona.