By Jill “Mamabug” Frier

Summer has arrived in the Valley of the Sun, and the heat in the desert makes it the perfect season to head to one of our nearby lakes. Whether you love boating, fishing, swimming, water sports, or just enjoying the beauty of a sparkling water oasis in the desert, there are many large lakes near the Phoenix area for you to enjoy with your friends and family. Here is a list of some of the lakes in the area and tips to help you have a fun and safe trip while you’re there.

Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a part of the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system. Located just north of Phoenix off of highway 74 (Carefree Highway), Lake Pleasant is a favorite for local outdoor enthusiasts and fans of all water sports, with boating, fishing, camping, and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Bartlett Lake
Bartlett Lake (or Reservoir) is located northeast of Phoenix, in the Tonto National Forest. Take Cave Creek Road east of Carefree until you reach Bartlett Dam Road. Bartlett Reservoir is the second-largest lake in the Tonto National Forest and is a state record fishing spot, as well as a great place for camping and picnicking.

Saguaro Lake
Saguaro Lake is east of Phoenix, off of the Beeline Highway (Highway 87) on the way to Payson. The lake is located in the Tonto National Forest, a short drive from Fountain Hills and Apache Junction and is a favorite for boating and fishing fans.

Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is east of Phoenix in the Superstition Wilderness, near Tortilla Flats just off of Highway 88 (also known as the Apache Trail). A part of the Tonto National Forest, Canyon Lake is a great favorite of water sports fans, hikers and campers.

Apache Lake
Apache Lake is a bit further east of Phoenix than Canyon Lake along Highway 88. Apache Lake is also located in the Tonto National Forest and is known for its boating, trout fishing, and the stunning scenery and canyon walls that surround parts of the lake.

Roosevelt Lake
Continue east on Highway 88 until it intersects with Highway 188 and you will arrive at Roosevelt Lake, also in the Tonto National Forest. Roosevelt Lake is the largest of the lakes in the Sonoran Desert region surrounding Phoenix and hosts boating and camping facilities for visitors. It’s also the gateway to the Tonto National Monument, a well-preserved site of 700-800 year old cliff dwellings with a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Safety on the Lake
Once you get to the lake, water safety is always a priority for people of all ages. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind to help you make the most of your lake adventure and keep your family safe and sound.
• Never Swim Alone. It’s always important to keep an eye on your kids any time they are in the water, but it’s also important for adults to make sure they stick together when swimming in the lake. It can be easy to lose track of all the swimmers while you’re on the lake so be sure to use the buddy system. Drowning is a silent killer, so keep each other in view – a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
• Always Wear Life Jackets. The majority of lake drownings, somewhere around 80 percent, occur because a person was not wearing a life jacket. Flotation devices ensure that should you be forced under the water, you will pop back up to the top and stay afloat. Even strong, skilled swimmers can’t stop an undertow from pulling them under a rock or underwater cliff, so don’t take the chance. Being safe means using a life vest, no matter your experience.
• Don’t Drink the Water. Untreated freshwater often contains some pretty gruesome microorganisms that can easily make you sick. Don’t drink lake water and avoid getting it through your nose – you never know what kinds of bacteria are lurking in the cool depths, but a trip to the hospital for giardia, E. coli or something worse is a terrible way to find out.
• Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Before you jump into a swimming hole, be sure you know if there are any rocks, tree stumps, or debris lurking underneath the water that can cause a serious injury. If you are swimming near a boat, be sure to stay away from the motor exhaust and carbon monoxide fumes. And be sure to check water surrounding a dock, as boats and docks are powered by electricity, which can cause an electric shock when you enter the water. Pay attention to the potential dangers around you and be alert and aware of your surroundings every time you enter the water.
• Wear Sunscreen. Take a Hat. Drink Tons of Water. Every time you go outside in the desert, be sure to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from dehydration and sun exposure.

Summer is the perfect time to cool off and enjoy our almost year-round sunshine by the lake or pond. The scenic wilderness and beauty of our Sonoran Desert lakes is a great way to experience nature, have fun, and enjoy the many fun activities available at the lake. But be sure to plan ahead when you head for the lake and take steps to be safe and prevent accidents, illness or drowning while you splash around. And be sure to check for more ideas for having fun outside while keeping your kids safe this summer in Arizona!