Make a Splash
The best water sports venues in the West
BY: JANICE ARENOFSKY Re-copied from http://highroads.az.aaa.com/water-sports
For summertime desert-dwellers, little is more appealing than the idea of a cool water escape. Fortunately, sun-soaked Arizonans don’t need to go far to find relief. There are many lakes and rivers where westerners can beat the heat and enjoy a variety of water sports, such as windsurfing, tubing, fishing, and boating. Here is a guide to some of the hottest spots to cool down in the West.
Located near Page and formed by Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell is 186 miles long with 1,960 miles of shoreline surrounding deep canyons and rocky outcrops. A fisherman’s dream, the clear, cold waters offer a variety of fish, even trophy-size trout, near Lees Ferry. A reservoir for Colorado River waters, it’s a haven for swimming, waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking.Houseboating also attracts crowds, with Wahweap and Antelope Point marinas as launch points for day- or week-long cruising.
The largest river in the Phoenix area with an average water temperature of 68 degrees, the Salt is a magnet for tubers. Depending on the launch point (there are four) and the water flow, it takes about two to six hours to float down this generally slow-moving waterway, despite a few fast-moving patches near the rapids. Tubing is family friendly from May through September, with daytrippers usually renting rubber inner tubes. Don’t look for a solitary experience here. Just go with the flow and enjoy passing views of majestic mountains and the occasional wild horse or blue heron.
Once the largest manmade lake in the United States, Lake Mead was formed by Hoover Dam, a majestic feat of engineering that divides Arizona and Nevada. Many visitors rent houseboats, relax on sandbars, and watch the stars come out while rhapsodizing about the sheer cliffs, deep canyons, and distant mountain ranges. Other folks get physical with water skiing and swimming.
This deep, 45-mile long lake in the western reaches of the state is where Central Arizona Project begins to pull its Colorado River allotment. Anglers can explore coves and inlets to find perfect spots to drop their fishing lines and await the tug of striped bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout. But do allow some time to gawk at the famous London Bridge, which connects to an island in the lake. Scuba diving also beckons visitors due to year-round warm water temperatures, the absence of dangerous fish and riptides, and good visibility. Thirty dive sites feature attractions such as fish habitats, shipwrecks, and an underwater town from the 19th century.
Rafting down the river — whether you prefer smooth water or wicked white rapids — is a memorable experience that gives a unique bottom-to-top perspective on the massive Grand Canyon. Be smart and reserve space on a river trip, which range from one day to two weeks or longer. Rafters start out at Lees Ferry, Glen Canyon Dam, or Diamond Creek. Those on non-commercial trips gain access to native Hualapai Tribal land and cultural sites.
JANICE ARENOFSKY lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she writes for publications such as Experience Life, Preservation, and Alaska Airlines.