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Open Water Swimming in Arizona

Click the links below for maps, distances, and safety information on the best places to swim in Arizona. The only thing you won't find on this page are friends to swim with.  You can find those here: AZ Open Water Swimming

Jump to region: Phoenix Area, Flagstaff/Sedona/Prescott, Upper Salt River, Northwestern Arizona, Southern Arizona, Eastern Arizona

Phoenix Area

No matter where you are in the valley, there are several lakes within easy driving distance.  Count on lake temperatures over 60 degrees from February thru November.

Bartlett Reservoir
Bartlett Reservoir is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Phoenix area.  It's about 30 minutes east of Cave Creek.
Saguaro Lake
Saguaro lake is one of the most popular destinations in the Valley for open water swimmers.  It's an easy 30-minute drive from Mesa or Fountain Hills. 
Tempe Town Lake
Swimming in Tempe Town Lake is prohibited, except during special events.  The water quality isn't great, but the convenient location and views of Tempe can't be beat.  It's the swim venue for Ironman Arizona and many triathlons and swim events throughout the year. 
Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant is part of the City of Phoenix parks system. It's the largest lake in the Phoenix area.  It's convenient for swimmers in the West Valley.
Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is one of the most scenic places in the Phoenix area.  It's also the closest lake  for swimmers in the Southeast Valley, not far from Apache Junction. 

Flagstaff / Sedona / Prescott

Upper Lake Mary, Flagstaff
Upper Lake Mary is the only lake in the Flagstaff area with enough water for swimming.  It's a small, man-made lake 11 miles from i17 on Lake Mary Road.  Elevation is 7,000 feet, so it's much cooler than the lakes in the Phoenix area.
Oak Creek, Sedona
The red rock formations in Sedona, AZ are some of the most widely photographed landmarks on earth.  Oak Creek is cool, scenic, rocky and shallow.  There's 100-yard section of the creek at Crescent Moon Picnic area that's swimmable.  Technically speaking, it's not the best place for open water swimming.  But the views more than make up for the obstacles.
Prescott
Swimming is not allowed in Prescott-area lakes.  Walton Lake would be a good place to swim if it were legal.

Upper Salt River

Roosevelt and Apache are the first two lakes in the Salt River system.  The surrounding landscape Sonoran desert.  As the crow flies, they're not far from Phoenix, but you have to go around the Mazatzal or the Superstition mountains to drive there.

Roosevelt Lake
Roosevelt Lake is the first lake in the Salt River system.  It's the biggest lake in Central Arizona.  Globe and Payson are the nearest big towns.  Dining and lodging are available in nearby Punkin Center or Tonto Basin.
Apache Lake
Apache Lake is the second lake in the Salt River system.  It's closer to Phoenix than Roosevelt Lake, but harder to access.  Globe is the closest town.

Northwestern Arizona (Colorado River System)

The lakes in the Colorado River system are the most spectacular in the state.  These waterways form part of the border between Arizona and Utah, Nevada and California.

Lake Powell
Lake Powell runs along the border between Arizona and Utah.  Summers are hot, but cooler than the Phoenix area.  It's widely regarded as the most beautiful lake in Arizona.
Lake Mead
Lake Mead forms part of the border between Arizona and Nevada.  It's the home of the famous Hoover Dam.
Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu defines a 45-mile stretch of the border between Arizona and California.  Lake Havasu City boasts an exact (albeit smaller) replica of the London Bridge. Summers are even hotter than Phoenix; winters are cooler.
Colorado River - Parker, AZ
Once it leaves Lake Havasu, the Colorado River goes back to being a river.  It forms the rest of the border between Arizona and California.  There are several dams and a few small reservoirs along the way.  The area behind the Blue Water Casino in Parker is a popular spot for open water swimming.
Alamo Lake
Alamo Lake isn't technically part of the Colorado River system, but it's so close to Lake Havasu that we're including it here.  It's actually formed by the Alamo Dam on the Bill Williams River which eventually feeds the Colorado.

Southern Arizona

The 5,000+ foot elevation in southern Arizona, makes the lakes here a nice respite from summers in Phoenix and Tucson.  Water temperatures generally stay below 80°F in the summer

Parker Canyon Lake
Parker Canyon Lake is a popular destination for open water swimmers in Tucson and southern Arizona.   Boat traffic is limited to watercraft of 10 horsepower or less, so the entire lake is safe for swimming. 
Patagonia Lake
Patagonia Lake  is a nationally renowned bird watching destination.  There is a designated swimming area at Boulder Beach.  Only 90 minutes south of Tucson, it's popular with swimmers from that area.

Eastern Arizona (Mogollon Rim and White Mountains)

This lakes in this area are beautiful, but many of them tend to be marshy and not ideal for swimming.

Big Lake
Swimming is permitted.  Check out these sites for more information:  Big Lake Tackle and Supply and Springerville Ranger District.
CC Cragin (Blue Ridge) Reservoir
CC Cragin Reservoir is 55 miles south of Flagstaff.  It should be a good place for swimming.  It's about 5 miles long, and narrow like a river.  It winds thru a canyon, lined with boulders and pine forest.  Motorized watercraft are limited to 10 horsepower.  There have been reports of algae problems on this lake, but the water was clear as of July, 2012. Check the Coconino National Forest site for more information.
Hawley Lake
Hawley Lake, on the Apache reservation, is the coldest spot in Arizona.  We don't know if swimming is permitted.
Lyman Lake
Swimming is permitted at Lyman Lake State Park
San Carlos Reservoir
The San Carlos Reservoir, on the San Carlos Apache reservation, is dry for part of the year.  During times of drought, water levels stay very low throughout the year.  Unless you are a member of the tribe, you need a permit from the tribal office to use the lake.
Sunrise Lake
Sunrise Lake, on the Apache reservation, is great for fishing.  We don't know if swimming is permitted.
Woods Canyon Lake
Swimming is not allowed.

 

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