Water, Water Everywhere

REVIEW FEATURE

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All of us who live in Arizona Rim Country benefit from our state's international reputation as nothing more than a sweltering, dusty, cacti-ridden sandbox.

What outsiders fail to realize is that the Mogollon Rim is dotted with pristine waterways that offer limitless recreational opportunities from Roosevelt Lake to Willow Springs.

"I'll tell you, there is nothing as peaceful as rowing a small boat across one of our mountain lakes," promises 18-year Payson resident Randy Roberson. "It doesn't matter which one, because they all have their own, unique identity. I don't know that I've ever enjoyed anything so much as putting a kayak on Blue Ridge Reservoir at midnight. It's such a narrow, deep canyon that you almost feel like you're on a river. As far as lakes in the Rim country, that's my favorite spot."

If you have yet to identify your favorite spot, there are plenty of sparkling options to choose from.

The Rim lakes

Woods Canyon Lake Built in 1955 by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, this 52-acre waterway is the most popular of the Rim lakes, and the only one that offers boat rentals and a small store where you can purchase bait and other supplies. Easy access to boat ramp; Boating is restricted to electric trolling motors and paddle-powered craft only. Bank fishing for trout, pike, bass, catfish, bullhead, sunfish and bluegill. Swimming is not allowed.

Elevation: 7,500 feet. Open April to November.

Directions: From Payson, take SR 260 to FR 300; drive 3 miles on FR 300 to Woods Canyon Lake entrance road.

Campground reservations are available. Call 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.reserveusa.com. For more information, visit www.woodscanyon.com.

Willow Springs Lake This lake is the closest to State Route 260 of any lake on the Rim. There is no marina or camping by the lake (Sinkhole Campground is 1/4 mile away), but there are restrooms and a boat launch for boats with small motors. Easy access, boat ramp and bank fishing for brown trout.

Elevation: 7,500 feet. Open April to November.

Directions: From Payson, take State Route 260 to the top of the Rim. About a mile beyond FR 300 on 260 is another left turn at FR 149. Turn left on FR 149 and follow road to the lake.

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us./r3/asnf.

Bear Canyon Lake This beautiful, crystal-clear lake is one of the finest on the Mogollon Rim. There's a boat ramp at the lake for small boats. A hiking trail leaves from the parking area down to the lake for those without boats. Fishing will net you brook and brown trout (no rainbows).

Elevation: 7,600 feet. Open year-round as access permits.

Directions: From Payson, take Highway 260 to FR 300 and turn left. Travel to FR 89 and turn right; continue for 3 miles to the lake entrance. Park in the south lot and hike down to the lake.

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us./r3/asnf.

Black Canyon Lake Right now, this 78-acre lake is closed because it's in the Chediski fire area. But when it's open, there are both fishing and boating opportunities, and a ramp for electric-motored boats only. Fish for rainbow and German brown trout.

Elevation: 7,600 feet. Open April to November.

Directions: About 35 miles east of Payson on Hwy. 260, take FR 300 south 2 1/2 miles to FR 86, then left to the lake.

Blue Ridge Reservoir This narrow, winding body of water looks more like a canyon-bound river than a lake. Nestled between forested canyon walls it provides picturesque water recreation in a secluded, wooded setting. Fisherfolks can snag rainbow, brown or brook trout all stocked by Arizona Game and Fish. Boat motors are limited to a maximum of 8 horsepower. Swimming is not allowed.

Directions: From Payson, take Highway 87 north to FR 751, then head southeast about 6 more miles to the reservoir.

Knoll Lake This secluded forest lake, surrounded by dense groves of ponderosa pine, provides a scenic setting in which to enjoy a canoe or other small boat with a single electric motor. Fishing is good here too, offering rainbow, brown and brook trout. Swimming is not allowed.

Directions: North on Highway 87 to FR 95, then drive 6 miles south to FR 96. Follow it 2 miles to FR 321 and drive 10 miles to FR 300. Turn east (left) 4 miles and then north (left again) 4 miles on FR 295E.

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.

Chevelon Canyon Lake The largest of the Rim lakes, but the most difficult to access, requiring a one-mile hike to reach. Spectacular views and great opportunities for hiking and trout fishing, with 6 miles of accessible shoreline for fishing.

Elevation: 6,800 feet. Open May to October.

Directions: Take Highway 260 approximately 30 miles east to FR 300, follow FR 300 for about 10 miles to FR 169, follow FR 169 for 21 miles to FR 169B.

Roosevelt Lake

Once the largest man-made lake in the world, this high-desert waterworld when full covers more than 17,000 acres. The Roosevelt Marina has a concession where you can rent boats, camp and fish. The Lakeview Trailer Park has 10 spaces available for RV parking.

Recreational opportunities include swimming, camping, boating, fishing, picnicking and sightseeing. Along Highway 188 there are numerous locations to access the lake shore. Bachelor's Cove offers picnicking, camping, fishing and boating. Cholla Boating Site also offers camping. Bermuda Flats Recreation Site is also a popular area, but from mid-November through mid-February it is closed by the Forest Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department for use as a refuge for geese.

The Roosevelt Lake Marina offers personal watercraft, speed boats, fishing boats, pontoon and bass boats for rent.

Directions: From Payson, take the Highway 87 south to SR 188, then east to the lake.

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.

Green Valley lakes

There's not much need to introduce this trio of gorgeous man-made fishing-and-electric-boating lakes to locals. But here's something even Green Valley Park regulars might not know: Fishing poles are provided free at the Parks and Recreation Department building on the southeast shore of the main lake. You still need a fishing license and bait, however, if you want to thin the lake's trout population. Located at the west end of West Main Street at Green Valley Parkway.

For more information on lakes in Arizona Rim Country, call the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (928-333-6200), the Tonto National Forest (602-225-5200), or the Mogollon Rim (928-527-3600).

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