Writer Shannon Severson // Photo by Brandon Tigrett

Formed by Stewart Mountain Dam in 1930, Saguaro Lake is the last of the Salt River reservoirs to be built. The 22-mile shoreline is rimmed by mountains and canyon walls and has a bounty of its namesake cactus scattered all around the landscape.

Saguaro Lake’s north end has Butcher Jones Beach, a day-use area with picnic areas and a nature trail. You might be surprised by the white sand beach, ready for building sandcastles or a tan. Swimmers splash in the crystal blue water that some compare to the hue of Caribbean waters. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the wild Salt River horses that roam the area.

The Butcher Jones Trail begins near the beach and is an easy to moderate 4.9-mile round-trip hike with minimal change in elevation. It’s a very popular trail and a great way to see various lake river vistas, a marshy inlet and many desert plants and trees.

Most of the water activity centers around the Saguaro del Norte Recreation site near the dam, which includes the Saguaro Lake Marina. Like the other lakes in the area, there are spots to launch your own boat or rent one for the day, picnic tables and a restaurant — Shiprock Restaurant, which features an all-you-can-eat fish fry each Friday evening as well as a seafood-centric menu.

If you’d rather take a cruise than hike, fish or manage a boat yourself, Desert Belle Cruises has a 50-year tradition of delighting passengers with its double-decker, air-conditioned cruise. Options include an 80-minute narrated cruise that focuses on the wildlife and desert flora and fauna and a live music sunset cruise. Both options are offered year-round. From October through June, Desert Belle Cruises also offers a wine and music cruise with $5 wine specials and an Arizona craft beer and live music cruise.

Saguaro Lake // 14011 N. Bush Highway, Mesa // 480-986-5546 // saguarolakemarina.com