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Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Arizona

A self-supported trip created by RikJohnson

Trip Overview

This is a reply to previous report on Roosevelt Lake posted by P-net user: "wolfsoul" in 2006

MY REPLY AND EXPERIENCES (wolfsoul's comments follow these symbols ">>>")

Things have changed a lot since 2006. Though I doubt that things have really changed. Arizona lakes are always in flux and yet, things never change.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
Being the kind of guy who prefers my outdoor experiences to be quiet and contemplative, I was a little apprehensive about heading out to explore Roosevelt Lake, which is known as more of a hot-rodders lake, swarming with jet-skis and power boats.

Roosevelt is large enough to easily avoid the "stink-pots". I've been on the lake and across the lake and never had any problems. But then, I never push it and if I see a speedboat coming, I give him the right-of-way.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
Though there isn't any place on the lake to completely escape the motorized world,

NW end of the lake is generally a no-wake area. Partly because of the Bald Eagle and beaver habitats but mainly because the water is too shallow for the engine-crowd and floating logs are a danger to them so they prefer to stay in the center of the lake.

I always found that paddling closer to the shores to be safe even in the worst of times.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
That area (and there may be more) is at the east end of the lake, near where the Salt River enters the lake.

This area is known to be shallow and reed-choked thus the lack of speedboats.

I've never paddled that area because of lack of shade and in Arizona, summer temps run to 115 degrees with zero clouds, thus I like to occasionally head under a tree or cliff to relief. You have neither on the SE part of Roosevelt.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
We discovered that it was best to drive down to the water, unload the yaks, and then park the truck instead of hauling the kayaks up and down the ramp on foot.

We've found this to be the best too. The thing is to not LEAVE your car on the ramp for any length of time. No one minds if you drive down, unload boats and gear, load the boat then leave the kayak on the ramp (BY THE EDGE) not in the middle, as you drive your car to the parking lot.

I've never been robbed doing this though if you have a group of people, leave one by the boat when you park or do your last minute potty-break.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
It is an odd thing to explore the desert on a large lake, having somewhat of a surreal quality, but I can't say that the lake distracts from the beauty of the surroundings (shoreline trash not withstanding). Presumably because lake levels fluctuate so much, the shoreline vegetation is rarely lush, if it exists at all, so one never gets the sense that he/she is not firmly ensconced in a desert.

Some areas of Desert Lakes are� desert, others are a jungle. But that is one of the beauties of paddling Arizona.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
At this end of the lake, which is far more shallow than most parts, the skeletons of flooded willows and cottonwoods abound, which offers paddlers adequate barriers to keep most motor boats out of the area without acting as too much of a barrier to paddle craft. There certainly are areas that are too dense to paddle through, but a way through or around is usually not too difficult to find.

Mostly this is because some years back, the dam was raised and so the water level rose to drown all the trees that had settled on the shore.

When full, Roosevelt is mainly a reservoir for farmers, the old shoreline becomes a forest of drowned trees. The NW end is a wonderful place to paddle as the beaver and Bald Eagle prefer that side for their homes and you can get quite close to them in a paddlecraft.

Today, with the water 56' low @42% full, my favorite place is grazing cattle and my secret beach & swim-hole is a mile across the dry and very rocky lake-bed.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
At a lake elevation of 2,118 feet, I paddled about 5 miles from the Schoolhouse Point boat ramp before finding noticeable flows. Most of that time, I had no company but an Osprey, and some turkey vultures, yellow-headed blackbirds, Great blue herons, and other water birds.

Birds abound on these lakes. I've had a Pelican swim up and hitch a ride on my kayak. Some of these lakes have 200 and more species of birds, some native, many immigrants. And the lake is on the Turkey-Vulture migration route.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
There are hundreds of established camp sites in the vicinity of the boat ramp.

Although there are many camping areas, and the only 100% solar campground in the US, you can easily camp anyplace you can find a place to set your tent. I would suggest a strong painter though. Lake levels rise and fall by feet over the course of hours so your beached boat at sunset may be floating away when the water rises at midnight.

Just be aware that cat-holes do not work in Arizona so "pack-your-poop" out!

wolfsoul's comments>>>
There is a day use fee of of $6 per vehicle and $4 per watercraft. We didn't know if "watercraft" meant a watercraft that had to be registered (i.e. not a kayak in Arizona), or if it included anything that floats on water (kayaks), so we just paid the watercraft fee.

No, the Tonto Pass @ $6 is a 24 hour pass. BUT it says that the $4 watercraft sticker is only for boats that must be registered in Arizona. Which means engine-only. Paddlecraft need not be registered so save the $4 sticker fee.

wolfsoul's comments>>>
From Phoenix, take US 60 east to Globe/Miami. Head north on Highway 188 about 20.6 miles until you get to the signed turn-off to Schoolhouse Point. Travel another 3 miles or so down to the boat ramp.

WARNING!!! When you reach the top of the main hill and crest to see the lake, you will also find a sheriff dept speed trap halfway down the hill with his radar gun watching you. He has no sense of humor and will tell you lies about the three people (who they are changes according to who you are.) He looked at my DCM pants and invented a story about two soldiers dying at the bottom of the hill the day before but somehow I never found any damage to road, vegetation or wreckage so had I my daughter, he would have lied about a family being killed.

Regardless, there is no law requiring the police to be honest so be aware of that speedtrap! He will tack on an additional $165 fine for "wasting valuable resources" i.e. gasoline.

One of these days when the drought is over (currently islands are pennensulas, reefs are islands and it is a long walk from the boat ramp to the water) I plan to park my car for a week and circumnavigate the lake, living out of my kayak.


Lots of good campsites and primitive camping all over the lake.


$6 per day Tonto pass


Start at Globe and follow the signs.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location