Sailing Saguaro Lake on the Desert Belle

March 8, 2015
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Two-level cruise boat on a lake surrounded by desert mountains in Arizona
A narrated cruise on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Arizona has many lakes, most man-make formed by the creation on dams and reservoirs. Saguaro Lake, approximately 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix, is one such lake. Created by the construction of Stewart Mountain Dam on the Salt River, the lake is about 110 feet deep at its deepest point and has over 22 miles of shoreline. Several ecosystems are found on the lake and its shoreline. The 90-minute narrated cruise on the Desert Belle offers a great way to explore the lake and its ecosystems.

Blue waters of Lake Saguaro with desert mountains in the background

Saguaro Lake’s shoreline includes rocky crags, deciduous trees, cacti, and marshland. The scenery changes as you cruise around the lake. You’ll see the saguaro cacti for which the lake is named, flatlands with other desert shrubs, mesquite and ironwood trees, rock cliffs, and marshlands filled with cattails.

While you enjoy the dramatic scenery on the cruise, the captain provides information about history, geology, plants, and wildlife of the lake with fun Arizona myths and trivia mixed in.

An unusual rock formation with desert shrubs on Saguaro Lake
An unusual rock formation
Blue lake leading into crevice between desert mountains
Bighorn at the top of a cliff

Many types of birds live around the lake. You may also spot wildlife along the shore or up in the mountains. Bighorn sheep are the most common. Coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and deer also live in area. You may want to bring a pair of binoculars.

Two kayakers in the lake in front of a steep rock face

Saguaro Lake is a popular spot for a number of water activities, including boating, kayaking, sailing, skiing, jet skiing, and fishing. It is known for its largemouth bass, but carp, bluegill, rainbow trout, crappie, catfish, walleye, and other kinds of bass are also found. The Arizona Fish and Game Department stocks rainbow trout. An Arizona fishing license is required.

People seated on the open deck of a boat cruising Saguaro Lake in Arizona
View from the open deck of the Desert Belle

The two-level Desert Belle has an air-conditioned lower cabin, an open deck at the front of the boat, and a covered open-air upper deck. Seating is first come, first served. There are bathrooms and a snack bar.

The Desert Belle sails two or three times a day depending on the time of year. Check the website for details. Advance booking is recommended. Credit and debit cards can be used when booking in advance online. Walk-up admissions and snacks on the boat must be paid for in cash.

Saguaro Lake is in the Tonto National Forest. A park pass is not required to access the Saguaro Lake Marina from which the Desert Belle sails. A park pass is required for other lake recreational activities.

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Desert Belle Cruise on Saguaro Lake, Arizona: a 90-minute narrated cruise past spectacular scenery and different ecosystems in Mesa, Arizona

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  • Reply
    Susan cooper
    March 8, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    When you think of Arizona it’s certainly not a land of lakes like Minnesota that comes to mind. Guess that is why they are all man made. Looks like a good place for fishing.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      March 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

      Susan, I’ve seen people fish on the lake but I don’t know what or if they caught anything.

  • Reply
    jacquie
    March 9, 2015 at 7:30 am

    This looks so refreshing! I guess I always think desert when I think Arizona, and the idea of lakes there seems strange! Goes to show how we get ourselves into a fixed way of thinking:)

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      March 10, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Jacquie, that is so true about getting into a fixed way of thinking. So much about this area in Arizona surprised me when I first visited.

  • Reply
    Corinne
    March 10, 2015 at 6:15 am

    It looks like a nice way to cool off…but I have to say, it needs a few trees!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      March 10, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Corinne, there were a few trees in places, but not so much along the rocky shores I photographed.

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