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Kayaking
Canyon Lake
November 16, 2021
by Chuck Parsons
  GPS Map 
by Billie Horn
group
7 Trailblazers, with hill 2276 in the background. [photo by John]
Diane, Chuck, Glenn, John, Billie, Neil, Norma

On a beautiful Tuesday morning in mid-November, 7 Arizona Trailblazers converge on the Acacia Picnic Site’s kayak launch area at the south end of Canyon Lake for a day of kayaking one of our favorite and most scenic desert lakes. On Monday morning I had a total of 15 kayakers signed up for this trip and was just a little concerned about being able to keep track of that many people on the lake. Keeping track of 15 hikers on a narrow strip of trail is one thing, but trying to keep track of 15 kayakers on a large body of water is another matter entirely.

But I also do not want to turn anyone away. By some strange quirk of fate, at the end of the day we were down to just 7 kayakers, after a slew of 8 cancellations.

On the vast majority of the club’s day hikes, kayaking trips, and car-camping trips, it’s typical to see a 25% cancellation rate, but pretty rare to experience a 50% or higher cancellation rate.

hikers
Norma and Neil check out the lake. [photo by John]
hikers
Diane and Chuck get ready to shove off. [photo by John]
hikers
Trailblazers are on the water! [photo by John]

After prepping our kayaks for launch and loading all our gear, we pause for a quick group picture in front of the lake. Under partly cloudy skies, with a temperature of 67 degrees, we slide our kayaks off the beach and start paddling toward the distant main channel of Canyon Lake.

dam
Mormon Flat Dam on Canyon Lake. [photo by Glenn]
hikers
Trailblazers are fanning out across the lake. [photo by Glenn]
hikers
Six kayakers are paddling across the lake. [photo by John]
sun
The morning sun lights up hill 2276 overlooking Canyon Lake. [photo by John]
hikers
Trailblazers raise their paddles in celebration of the day. [photo by John]
view
Sunbeams pouring off the high cliffs over the lake. [photo by John]

But first we take a quick look at Mormon Flat Dam to our left. One of four dams on the Salt River, Mormon Flat Dam was completed in 1925 and is closing in on its 100th year. But Roosevelt Dam, at the top end of the Salt River chain of lakes, is already 109 years old, completed in 1912.

hikers
What is this? Bumper kayaks? [photo by John]
hikers
Arrrgh! John is about to ram me! [photo by John]
view
The beautiful scenery of Canyon Lake. [photo by John]

Several different weather forecasts that I pulled up for Canyon Lake the day before this trip all predicted winds of between 2 and 8 mph on the lake. But as we start paddling across the main body of the lake toward the channel, we’re buffeted by steady winds of closer to 12 to 18 mph and even higher at times. Apparently the weather forecasters, in their infinite wisdom, somehow managed to omit that critical leading digit when they put this forecast together. So our extra layer of clothing is feeling pretty good at this point.

hikers
We steadily work our way up the old river channel. [photo by John]
Neil
Neil seems to be all alone on this stretch of lake. [photo by John]
Billie
Billie makes her way to the rest area take-out point. [photo by John]

Hoping for calmer winds within the shelter of the canyon walls when we finally cross the main body of the lake and begin steadily paddling our way deeper into the canyon, we’re both surprised and disappointed to discover that the canyon seems to be acting as a giant wind tunnel instead, as it funnels all that wind straight down the canyon. So we keep pushing on in the face of the winds whipping through the canyon.

hikers
We stop for a relaxing lunch/snack break at a campsite overlooking the lake. [photo by John]
hikers
John and Diane. [photo by John]
hikers
Breaktime over, we head back out on the lake. [photo by John]
hikers
Trailblazers take in the spectacular views on Canyon Lake. [photo by John]

After about an hour of paddling around and through several bends and twists in the canyon, the winds gradually begin to subside and the paddling becomes a little easier. By 10:30 we approach a good takeout point on the lake next to a pier and camping area where some of us have stopped on previous kayaking trips on Canyon Lake.

At 2.5 miles from the Acacia Picnic area launch site, this is always a good place to get out and stretch tired legs and muscles, take a restroom break, have some lunch, and relax for a while.

hikers
Glenn and Norma check out a small cave. [photo by John]
Glenn
Glenn appears to be holding up the cave roof. [photo by John]
hikers
Trailblazers steadily working their way back to the launch area. [photo by John]

There are three separate campsites here, with picnic tables, fire rings, and a restroom. We pull our kayaks up on shore and have a relaxing lunch and snack break on one of the large concrete picnic tables located on a hilltop overlooking the lake.

hikers
Backlighting outlines the arms of this saguaro, making them literally glow. [photo by John]
hikers
Norma and Glenn are making good progress on the water. [photo by John]
view
The Acacia Picnic Site finally comes into view. It won’t be long now. [photo by John]

After roughly 30 minutes, we pack up and return to our kayaks to start paddling back toward the Acacia launch site. We encounter only light winds on the way back, which slows us down a little, but by 12:00 noon we’re all back at the launch site and ready to call it a day. Other than the morning headwinds, this has been another perfect day for kayaking Canyon Lake.


Supplemental Report
by John Scruggs

At last! After five miles of paddling we return to our put in point at the Acacia Picnic Site. The entire trip was challenging for photography. When we started, the cliff shadows covered most of the lake. As the day proceeded and the sun shown down, we clung to the shadow more and more as the trip proceeded. It is already a drag on my speed to take the 60 photos I made. I had no time to set my camera to the specific settings that were appropriate for the lighting, so I shot on AUTO mode and tried to reimagine the color scapes in post processing. I do not apologize for the beauty, be it natural or provided in Lightroom.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated November 18, 2021