January 2018 – One of our favorite things in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the places where the arid prickly land embraces water. The city of Phoenix was first settled by the ancient Hohokam people who used the rivers to irrigate their crops. The city was named “Phoenix” because the new modern community rose from the ashes of that ancient city like the mythical phoenix bird. Those same rivers still flow today and in places they have been dammed to become lakes.
Lake Pleasant is on the northwest side of Phoenix, and it is big enough to house a marina, several boat launches, a few campgrounds and an RV park.
The air glistens with a special light at dawn and dusk, and we made a point to get out at sunrise and sunset to see what we could see.
There is something about the stately saguaro cactus standing watch over a beautiful calm lake in pink and blue light that stirs my soul.
Sunset steals over the water gradually, changing the sky and water from shades of peach to orange to pink.
The campgrounds at Lake Pleasant are lovely and offer campsites of all kinds, from up on a hill with a view of the whole lake to down on the shores of a narrow cove. Like all the public campgrounds in Arizona, reservations are highly recommended in the peak winter season.
One day the skies turned threatening, and heavy clouds dripping with moisture reached down to the desert floor.
The only caveat about camping at Lake Pleasant is that when the wind picks up it really howls. One night our trailer shook and rattled and bounced on its wheels all night long as the lake seethed with whitecaps and wind-whipped waves. It felt like we were back in the Sea of Cortez on our sailboat where the infamous Corumuel winds catch sailors off guard every year!!
After we had been camping at Lake Pleasant for a while, we packed up and moved to Canyon Lake on the other side of Phoenix.
Of course, nowadays “we” means not just the two of us but our new furry companion, Buddy, too.
Canyon Lake is one of several man-made lakes on the Salt River. Gorgeous Roosevelt Lake is another lake on the Salt River that we have enjoyed most winters we’ve been in Arizona in our RV. This was our first time camping on Canyon Lake, however.
Down on the shores of the lake Buddy discovered a few new duck friends.
One of the ducks was so curious about us he climbed out of the water and waddled up to say hello.
There is a lot of bird life along the Salt River, from snowy egrets to bald eagles. At Canyon Lake there was a resident flock of coots that spent their days wandering between the grassy shore and the water.
Early one morning Buddy ran down to the shore to admire the sunrise.
Mark and I followed, cameras and tripods in hand. As Mark set up his shot, Buddy gave him pointers on composition and camera settings.
Buddy checked the back of the camera and gave his approval.
We walked along the water until the sun was all the way up. Down by the water’s edge there were some fabulous gnarly trees, and Mark paused on a lower branch for a cuddle and portrait with the pup.
Buddy seems to weasel his way into most of our pics these days. We just can’t help it!
Whether he’s patiently sitting outside waiting to be let in.
Or patiently sitting inside waiting be let out!
If you are visiting Arizona with your RV this winter and looking for a different view of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, try camping at one of the many beautiful lakes!
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More info about RV camping at Lake Pleasant and Canyon Lake:
- Lake Pleasant Regional Park – Located on the southwest side of the lake
- Pleasant Harbor at Lake Pleasant – Located on the southeast side of the lake
- Canyon Lake Marina and RV Park – There’s a senior weekly rate
- Locations of Lake Pleasant Regional Park & Marina and Canyon Lake – Interactive Google Maps
Other blog posts from places we’ve visited where the Desert and Water meet:
- Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!
- Waterfront Dining in Arizona – Scorpion Bay & River’s Edge Cantina
- Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake
- Fall Colors and Wildlife on the Sonoran Desert Rivers in Arizona
- Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!
- Bryce Canyon National Park – “Mossy Cave” – Mystery Waterfall!
- Fall Color in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert near Roosevelt Lake
- Roosevelt Lake – Lakeside Camping in AZ
- Phoenix on the Wing – Waterbirds of Arizona!
- Rivers of Phoenix – Oases in the Desert!
- Roosevelt Lake, AZ – Desert Oasis
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