Living in Mesa, Arizona, means you and your family have access to some of the most beautiful and spacious outdoor recreation areas in the country. And even though Arizona can get pretty hot all year round, the Mesa area has plenty of awesome waterways for you to jump in, cool off, and have a great time outside. Here are some of Crème de la Crème of Mesa’s favorite waterways in and around our beautiful city.

Tempe Town Lake

A young girl sits in a kayak on Tempe Town Lake near Mesa, Arizona

Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by woodleywonderworks

Head about 15 minutes west to nearby Tempe to visit their segment of the Salt River, Tempe Town Lake. This local waterway boasts lots of water-based activities, including kayaking, sailing, rowing, fishing, and paddleboarding. If you have your own watercraft, you must get a permit from the town to use it, but it’s a simple application online. Or, you can rent a kayak or boat from one of the nearby rental places instead. This area has Tempa Beach Park on the south side of the lake and North Shore Beach on the north, and plenty of hiking, biking, and picnicking spots, too.

If you’re looking for something a bit more on the relaxing side, rent a paddleboat to travel along the calm waters. They even have swan boats if you want something a little romantic for your partner. Fishing fanatics can reel in rainbow trout, largemouth bass, yellow bass, carp, bluegill, catfish, and tilapia.

Kiwanis Lake

Take a slightly different 15-minute drive southwest of Mesa to find little Kiwanis Lake. This 13-acre lake is not part of Salt Lake like Tempe Town Lake, but this humble lake still offers a lot of fun for the whole family. You can take out your own boat or other watercraft or rent some from a rental place in Tempe. Go paddleboarding or sit on the boat and enjoy a day of fishing. This waterway is stocked with catfish, trout, bass, and sunfish. Just make sure to stick to the bag limits to help maintain the habitat.

After you’re done hanging out in the water, head to one of the ramadas for lunch, visit the playground, or cool off at the nearby rec center’s wave pool.

Lake Pleasant

Take an hour’s drive northwest of Mesa to spend the day at Lake Pleasant. This underrated waterway and regional park has boating, fishing, scuba diving, and swimming. If you’re a big fishing family, you’ll love that Lake Pleasant is home to 12 species of fish, including white bass, striped bass, bigmouth buffalo fish, and tilapia. You can even register for one of the lake’s fishing tournaments that are held throughout the year.

Lake Pleasant is also known for having some of the best inland scuba diving scenes in the western U.S., so if you’re certified or are working on your certification, you should head out to see the underwater structures, like the old Waddel Dam, and other amazing sites. But if deep diving isn’t your thing, you can take the kids out on an inner tube, raft, or just the life vest to float and splash around.

It’s important to note that Lake Pleasant can be prone to some unpredictable weather patterns and winds, so make sure to check the weather regularly before and during your visit.

Apache Lake

If you’re up for a bit of a longer drive, head northeast to Apache Lake, another lake that’s part of the long Salt River. Here you’ll find secluded coves, springs, a resort, and a local campground. It’s well worth the nearly 2.5-hour drive (due to a blockage along 86 through Tortilla Flat) just to enjoy the gorgeous landscaping of the Tonto National Forest. 

But if water activities are what you’re after, you have access to motorized and non-motorized boating as well as waterskiing. See if you can’t find O’Connell Spring on the lake’s south side. Go fishing for black crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and walleye.

Canyon Lake

About an hour northwest is Canyon Lake, where you can kayak, boat, fish, scuba, jet ski, and enjoy pretty much anything other water-based activity. If you have your own boat, feel free to bring it along, but if you don’t, there are great rental options for cruising and serious fishing. There’s also a designated swimming area so you can splash around in peace. Plus, you can work on your tan while laying out at the Canyon Lake Scenic Beach. 

Try out the Boulder Recreation Site on the southeast side of the area since it’s a great spot for fishing. Catch bluegill, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, walleye, and yellow bass.

Roosevelt Lake

With 112 miles of shoreline and 22,000 acres of surface water, Theodore Roosevelt Lake is another segment of the Salt River that offers awesome water activities like boating and water skiing. This area also has plenty of other non-water-based activities, too, like hiking around the Roosevelt Lake Wildlife Area and the Three Bar Wildlife Enclosure. Take a photo by the Roosevelt Lake Bridge, explore the Tonto National Monument, check out secluded coves like Cholla Bay and Bachelor Cove, and visit the Porter Spring Recreation site, Horse Pasture Recreation site, Cholla Campground, and other camping areas.

Of course, this lake has some good fishing with species like largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie.

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is just over a half hour away from Mesa, making it a quick trip to 22 miles of shoreline, which includes Butcher Jones Beach and Recreation Site and Sadie’s Beach. Take a ride on the Desert Belle riverboat that offers tours around the lake so you can take in the sights of the surrounding desert and mountainous views. You can also just hang out in the water with paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, jet skiing, and water skiing, or try fishing for bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, rainbow trout, and crappie.

Salt River

The waterway that connects all of these awesome lakes is the Salt River, which has a variety of water flows that provide different activities and diverse species of fish. Up and down the river, you’ll find areas offering class III and IV whitewater rafting, fly fishing, kayaking and inner tubing, and so much more. Plus, you can visit some cool sites, like Ship Rock, Kings Beach, and the Saguaro Coves.So there you have it, those were the eight best waterways in and around Mesa, Arizona. Did we miss any of your go-to lakes, springs, or rivers? Let Crème de la Crème of Mesa know, and we’ll be sure to add it to our list!