Kayaking the canyons of Canyon Lake

I’ve spent a lot of time on the Lower Salt River but I just found a great new place to put in my kayak.

Monday, my kayaking buddy and I headed up to Canyon Lake, the third lake in the Central Arizona lakes chain. I’ve been there several times before but have not spent a lot of time on the water.

This time, we put in at two locations – Boulder Recreation Site and the bridge at First Water Creek.

The Boulder Recreation Site is located to the southwest of the bridge and marina. This spot leads back to La Barge Creek which is ultimately fed from Boulder Canyon. We were able to put in from the Boulder Recreation Site parking lot and paddle to the farthest end of the creek where we left the kayaks. From there, we hiked a short distance back along the the main creek which was dried. Recent rains had left stagnant pockets of water in the rocks. Anyone could see that a torrential downpour would make the entire wash a dangerous place to be during a flash flood. Here are some photos of the area including the wash leading into the creek/lake.

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Once we paddled back out to Boulder Recreation Site, we passed the parking lot and made our way over to the marina where we surveyed the many boats in slips. It’s worth mentioning that many of these boats looked pretty weathered and in need of maintenance. I can’t understand why someone would invest in such a nice boat only to have it sit in the sun taking a beating all summer without any use.

Upon returning to Boulder Recreation Site, we tossed the kayaks into the back of the truck and headed toward First Water Creek, located near the first bridge. We parked the truck, put in on the south side of the bridge and proceeded to paddle into the canyon.

This was also a lengthy passage back into an area that most people cannot access. The water was extremely calm and glassy as cliffs rose high above the water.

It was nearing sunset so bats began making their way out into the evening air to fill their bellies with the billions of bugs flying overhead.

We managed to make it all the way to the water’s end where a large Cottonwood tree rose above the creek bed. From there, we set the boats and hiked back a quarter mile to where the creek took a turn back into the Superstition Mountains.

Before it got too dark we headed back to the boats and paddled our way back to the main lake.

Here are some photos and video of that tour.

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We ended the day with a paddle over to the Canyon Lake dam just as dusk was setting on us.

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One thought on “Kayaking the canyons of Canyon Lake”

  1. I’ve been up to both of these areas several times. The only thing I haven’t done at Canyon Lake is go up the Salt River. I heard there’s a large no-wake area way back in there. There’s not a lot of information about it though. Boulder Recreation Area is my drop in site of choice for swimming and kayaking La Barge Creek. It’s a great way to spend time almost any time of year. Also, the place is swarming with cardinals most of the year. Sadly, I never get a good photo of one but I’m satisfied with their singing.

    You might also try Tortilla Creek on the east end of Canyon Lake. It doesn’t go back quite as far as La Barge, but it’s very nice. It’s pretty rocky at the end and you could hike back in there but it’s very overgrown and would be a bit difficult. It could mellow out further in and lead you to Tortilla Recreation Site, but I never hiked it all the way.

    The Woodbury fire force AZGFD and ADOT to close a lot of access points above Canyon Lake. When they reopen 88 and 80 next year, I plan on kayaking the Salt River canyon down through the lakes as an overnight kayak-camping trip, as I want to drop my kayak in just below the dam. I recently bought a Paddling Arizona book to help identify other flatwaters in the state that I can recreationally kayak.

    One day, I really want to kayak down the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam down to Lee’s Ferry. I went fishing here almost monthly as a kid. My dad was crazy for Lee’s Ferry. A 4-day weekend is needed for this kayak trip, only because of the distance from Phoenix. Glen Canyon to Lee’s Ferry is in the ballpark of 18 miles, with Horseshoe Bend almost midway, which is perfect for camping. The only thing to coordinate here is overnight parking and an outfitter to boat the kayaks upriver to the dam. I had friends who went last summer.

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