Ever wonder what is down a road? This trip I decided to drive further east along the Salt River in Arizona from Granite Reef Recreation Site, where last time I was birding, to discover what was ahead. I had seen vehicles pulling horse trailers, carrying mountain and road bicycles, kayaks and other watercraft. This area is east of Phoenix, Arizona.
Yes, I discovered on the south side of the road, there is plenty of horseback riding and mountain biking opportunities. Road bicyclists were on the road and happy with the smooth road. Some day I should check the bicycling out.
My first stop was off the main highway to Saguaro Lake Ranch. I passed horse stables and people getting ready for a trail ride. A short distance further there were rustic cabins, all part of the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. They are in a beautiful location considering this is all part of the Sonoran Desert in the Tonto National Forest, the fifth largest forest in North America. As you drive along you’ll see interesting rock formations along with saguaros. At the end of this road is Stewart Mountain Dam, built between 1928-30. The dam includes a 13,000 kilowatt hydroelectric generating unit, operated by and Arizona public utility, SRP, and helps with flood control and provides irrigation.
My next stop once back on the highway was Saguaro Lake Marina. We are now on the other side of the dam at Saguaro Lake, technically called a reservoir. It is the fourth reservoir on the Salt River, stretching 10 miles, with an average depth of 90 feet and 20 miles of shoreline. This place was jam-packed with people and boaters and it wasn’t even noon on a Friday! There is plenty to do in this area if you wish to rent a boat or use your own, picnic or eat at the ShipRock Restaurant. I do not think tours of the lake are happening right now on the Desert Belle.
You can also drive a few more miles down the road, as I did, to Butcher Jones Beach where people were here to picnic and swim. It was more calm in this area too. I loved seeing the rocky cliffs and will return in the future to hike a trail in this area. I understand it to be a 2 mile rocky, narrow trail of moderate difficulty with views of the lake and then 2 miles back out. Temperatures range in this part of Arizona from 25 to 115 degrees so do plan for a safe time when you visit and bring water!
I then drove 3 more miles down the highway to pick up a road back toward the Phoenix area. It made for an interesting loop to be on the other side of the Salt River. I had never driven this area of the state and it was really interesting seeing the diverse areas and the exploding population just to the edges of these lands which I hope will remain protected for generations to come. This is a perfect time to remember what Stewart Udall, a 3 time congressman from Arizona and Secretary of the Interior from 1961-1969, under presidents John F.Kennedy and Lyndon B.Johnson, once said: “Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man”. Enough said!