Kayaking in Arizona

Being in the middle of a landlocked desert paradise, one might not consider much of Arizona to be a destination of kayaking opportunities. However, you would be wrong. Arizona is home to beautiful weather, breathtaking sunsets and fabulous places to toss a kayak into a pool of water for an adventure. If you are new, this is your guide to making a splash and kayaking Arizona. 

***Disclaimer, some of these exciting kayaking opportunities might be temporarily closed due to Covid-19 or they may have additional restrictions. Plan accordingly prior to your visit.

Blue Ridge Reservoir or C.C. Cragin Reservoir

Location: Happy Jack, AZ.
Working on that sweet summer tan and upper body muscles has never been more scenic and fun than at the Blue Ridge Reservoir. This place was made for kayaking. It is a reservoir with very little sand shores or places to stop. Instead, float along large canyon walls and forestry for some of Arizona’s best sights and wildlife.

The Blue Ridge Reservoir can be found in the Coconino Forest located near Payson. The reservoir is on the Mogollon Rim. The best part is that this reservoir is limited to human-powered watercraft only, so you won’t need to worry about large boats whizzing by. The waters are peaceful and extremely enjoyable. The reservoir measures 8 miles and the average depth is 147 feet. Bring your fishing pole too if you want to take your chance at Brown and Rainbow Trout. Lastly, no pass or permit is required to enjoy this natural beauty.


Lower Salt River

Location: Mesa, AZ.
The Salt River is definitely a hot spot and a favorite for locals. Being that it is very close to the big city, yet boasts amazing scenery, the people flock here in hoards. However, that should not deter you from taking a shot at kayaking. You can catch a glimpse of the famous wild horses and other desert wildlife that tend to come out and play.

Located in Tonto National Forest, the Lower Salt River is a great place to perfect your kayaking skills. The water, smooth and cool, is the perfect way to take a reprieve from your daily routine. However, there is one thing to keep in mind. The Salt River is known as the party place for tubing by the masses of drunken partiers. If you want a quiet ride, opt for a very early start or take your time and leave after the masses have gotten off to a good start. Your trip should take you roughly four hours and a Tonto Pass is required to enter the river.


Lone Rock Canyon

Location: Page, AZ.
A very hot spot in more that one regard, Lone Rock Canyon is a popular retreat and first-time destination for kayakers. It is peaceful, yet stunning with views of cliff divers, sightings of Bighorn Sheep and so much more.

For the calmest and coolest ride, opt for early morning. There will be various canyons to explore, scenic overlooks, and Rock Canyon itself to investigate. There are many options for guided tours that show off all the treasures this place has to offer.


Lake Pleasant

Location: Northwest Phoenix, AZ.
Another hot spot located very close to metro Phoenix, Lake Pleasant tends to be a busy location due to proximity alone. However, it is a great place to fine-tune your kayaking skills too.

Lake Pleasant is located in Northwest Phoenix and is a rather large body of open water. It is approximately six miles wide and 4 miles long. There are numerous canyons and washes that give the area a ton of shoreline. The lake is also surrounded by mountains, giving it some awesome scenery to enjoy as you paddle about. There are parking and kayak launching fees.


Big Lake

Location: Apache County, AZ. 

A hidden gem located in northern Arizona’s White Mountain, Big Lake sprawls across 450 acres. It is a fisherman’s paradise with lots of healthy Trout to tackle. However, it is also a great place to get your kayak out. 

What makes Big Lake a great place for beginner kayakers is that the waters are smooth and serene. Gas engines are not allowed here. You have wide-open spaces to practice all your maneuvers. Additionally, the scenery isn’t too shabby either. Enjoy mountains and gorgeous forest tops. This is the perfect escape from the big city. 

Bottom Line

Arizona is a great state to pick up the fun pastime of kayaking. There are many great places to get your feet wet. There will be no shortage of fun times, great scenery, and peaceful rejuvenation.