Writer Shannon Severson // Photo by Mark Laverman

Canyon Lake is the smallest of the Salt River reservoirs at 950 acres of water when full, but it has a personality all its own. Yellow bass, walleye, rainbow trout and panfish swim beneath the water and bighorn sheep, deer and javelina can occasionally be spotted amidst the rock formations and steep canyon walls that border the winding fingers of the lake, which create many secluded spots to refresh and relax.

Canyon Lake is also a popular spot for picnicking, fishing, scuba diving, camping, swimming at the Laguna Beach area, bird watching, wind sailing or skimming across the lake on Jet Skis and wakeboards. Canyon Lake Marina and Campground has all the usual marina services as well as campsites and RV sites. Tortilla Flat Campground also offers campsites year-round.

The lakeside Well Done Grill at Canyon Lake is a family-operated restaurant that serves up burgers, salads, crab cakes and a best-selling pulled pork sandwich along with a full bar of cocktails and beers on tap.

The history of boating on Canyon Lake stretches back to 1925 when the 35-foot S.S. Geronimo could carry 50 passengers with its 35-horsepower engine and a cruising speed of about 15 mph. More recently, the Dolly Steamboat cruise company has been navigating the lake’s waters since 1983. Today, it transports 142 passengers, is 103 feet long and is powered by twin 225-horsepower John Deere marine diesel engines with air-conditioned options.

Passengers can choose from a 90-minute, six-mile Canyon Lake scenery cruise, a two-and-a-half-hour twilight dinner cruise or an astronomy dinner cruise during which an expert presentation on the solar system is given beneath a sky full of stars that are visible from the deck.

Canyon Lake // 16802 N.E. AZ-88, Tortilla Flat // 480-288-9233 // canyonlakemarina.com