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Canyon Lake Kayaking
Tonto National Forest
April 28, 2021
by Chuck Parsons
group
Nine Trailblazers are ready to start paddling. [photo by Wayne]
Barbara, Barb, Chuck, Eileen, Mimi, Lynne, Yanis, Vanessa, Wayne

On an overcast and surprisingly cool Wednesday morning in late April, nine Arizona Trailblazers meet at the Acacia Picnic Site on the south end of Canyon Lake for a day of kayaking one of Arizona’s most scenic desert lakes.

Tuesday’s weather forecast did not predict any rain at all for today, only partly cloudy skies, light winds, and a high of 75 degrees. Perfect conditions for kayaking. But from the looks of these dark and threatening clouds to the southeast, it’s starting to look like we could get pounded any minute.

kayakers
Last-minute preparations for launching. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
Mimi, Eileen, and Chuck are paddling across the lake. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
The whole group is moving across the lake now. [photo by Wayne]

What to do now? Time for an executive decision. Turn around and go back home or just keep making preparations to launch and hope for the best? We decide on the latter option, and by the time we gather to pose for the group picture the skies are beginning to clear, with the sun stubbornly trying to punch thru the cloud cover. Yesterday’s forecast is rapidly turning out to be accurate after all, with more and more blue sky opening up overhead. The weather is getting better by the minute. It’s time to get these kayaks in the water, Trailblazers!

slide
This looks like a recent rockslide. [photo by Wayne]
eagle
Commanding view from a Bald Eagle’s lofty nest. [photo by Wayne]
heron
This Great Blue Heron scans the shallows for breakfast. [photo by Wayne]
view
Peaceful scene along the shore of Canyon Lake. [photo by Wayne]

After we all cross the main body of Canyon Lake and prepare to paddle up the main river channel (where the Salt River flowed freely for millennia before all the SRP dams were built), we see what appears to be a relatively recent major rockslide on a huge cliff face. None of us who have been on Canyon Lake before seem to remember this rockslide from previous trips. And the fresh and untarnished cliff face where all these tons of rock sheared off seems to indicate that it took place not all that long ago. It’s hard to imagine how loud and frightening that event must have been for anyone close enough to hear or witness it. Note by Ted: it was there in 2013.

Just a little further up the channel we spot a large Bald Eagle’s nest, precariously perched high atop a large pinnacle of rock, with a commanding view of the lake. From the appearance of this ramshackle nest of large sticks and branches, it’s either slowly falling apart over time or still a work in progress. I would later hear from Wayne: “The Dolly Steamboat was passing by the eagles nest on our way back to Acacia, and the announcer was telling the boat riders that the eagles nest has been there for 15 years. So I guess it’s in need of some remodeling.“ I would have to agree with Wayne on that assessment.

kayakers
Chuck and Barb take a break from paddling. [photo by Wayne]
break
We find a good place to come ashore for a lunch/snack break. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
Yanis and Vanessa are next. [photo by Wayne]
Barbara
Barbara is on her way. [photo by Wayne]
duck
Mallory the mallard appears to be joining us as well. [photo by Wayne]
lunch
We actually have a real picnic table, overlooking the lake. And restrooms are nearby! [photo by Wayne]
lake
All the modern conveniences Canyon Lake has to offer. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
Trailblazers are ready to shove off once again. [photo by Wayne]

By 10:30 we approach a good takeout spot on the lake next to a pier and camping area where some of us have stopped on previous trips to Canyon Lake. A little over 2.5 miles from our Acacia launch site, this is always a good spot to get out and stretch tired legs, take a restroom break, and have some lunch and relax for a while.

Lynne
Lynne is paddling along on Big Blue today. [photo by Wayne]
Chuck
My kayak appears much longer than it actually is in this picture. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
We check out a small, narrow cove on the lake. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
And maneuver carefully to extract ourselves. [photo by Wayne]
kayakers
Eileen and Mimi are on their way out. [photo by Wayne]

Here, there are 3 separate campsites, picnic tables, fire rings, and a restroom. We pull our kayaks up on shore and have a relaxing lunch and snack break at one of the large concrete picnic tables on a hill overlooking the lake.

About 30 minutes later, we pack up and return to our kayaks to start paddling back toward the Acacia launch site. We start running into windier conditions on the way back, which slows us down a little, but by 12:30 we’re all back to the launch site and ready to call it a day. With an 8:30 start time, that gives us four hours on the lake, typical for one of these day kayaking trips. Although the day starts out as questionable, it turns out to be a perfect day for kayaking. But since this is likely one of the last remaining cool days for kayaking or hiking in the desert, we’ll have to start moving these activities to higher elevations for the next few months to escape the inevitable heat of a southern Arizona summer.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated May 1, 2021