Rim Lakes Off The Beaten Path Can Be Well Worth The Long Trip


Every summer, the Mogollon Rim chain of lakes receives a mass migration of Valley residents who want to enjoy the cool temperatures of the 7,000 ft. elevation and the chance to catch a limit of rainbows from one of its seven lakes. These reservoirs extend for a distance of more than 70 miles, from Blue Ridge Lake (Craggin Reservoir) in the west to tiny Black Canyon Lake far to the southeast.

Fishing and camping pressure is directly proportionate to the distance one is willing to travel off the pavement on a dirt or gravel road. Black Canyon Lake is definitely out of the way, with 5 miles on a dusty gravel road which eliminates only the most determined outdoor enthusiasts who might want a little solitude, and, yes, even on a weekend! This one-hour trip from Payson includes 38 miles of travel east on Highway 260, then turning right on Forest Service Road 300 which is 1/2 mile beyond Forest Lakes.

The destination is a beautiful, 78-acre lake which has a backdrop of old-growth ponderosa pines and plenty of easy access shoreline for children as well as less-mobile senior adults.

The elevation is 400 feet lower than Woods Canyon or Willow Springs, making the daytime air temperatures a bit warmer, which also affects the summer water temperatures that are so critical to trout fishing.

This lake has already been stocked five times this spring, so there are plenty of rainbow trout to be caught, as well as some hefty holdovers from the previous year which are in the 14- to16-inch range. June is the best summer month to fish Black Canyon Lake, with the water temperatures still cool, which makes the rainbow trout more active, especially in the early morning and the late afternoon.

There is a one-lane cement boat launch and an easy-access parking lot at the water’s edge that provides for a quick boat launch and fishing within minutes of arrival. Black Canyon Lake is the perfect water for float tubes with sheltered coves and very little mid-week activity. This is a Rim lake which is suitable to all types of fishing styles with plenty of elbow room.

It is common in the early morning or late afternoon on the 5-mile drive from the highway to see elk, deer and wild turkey, which makes the ride more pleasant. If you are looking for a new fishing destination on a quick trip from Payson, give Black Canyon Lake a try. When you pull in the parking lot and see only a vehicle or two, it is hard to imagine it is summer in Arizona on the Mogollon Rim.

There was a group of us Payson High School coaches when all the seasons of sports were over in mid-May, would frequently make this trip after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. just to get that evening bite. It was well worth the hour trip to have two hours of fantastic fishing with no one else on the water!

Seeing that lake glass smooth and trout dimpling the surface is a real adrenalin rush to any angler, especially for the one who is putting a fly rod together. Matching the hatch of new insects can be a challenge, but once that is figured out, the action is on.  This weekend, try a new Rim Country fishing destination, and enjoy God’s creation.


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