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10 Paddles In Oregon For The Adventurous Soul

From sea level at the coast to high alpine lakes, Oregon is home to some spectacular waterways. It’s easy to escape the convenience of the major cities and find yourself surrounded by natural beauty. Pack up your paddle board, here are ten places you won’t want to miss in the Beaver State:

Scappoose Bay

There is no shortage of exploration potential at this incredible location. Numerous creeks and estuaries feed into the bay, providing a seemingly endless maze of places to discover. Pick your route wisely to avoid downed trees that make travel challenging, as many of the waterways can be narrow and must be navigated with caution. The Bay can be enjoyed year round, but locals recommend early spring as the best time of year–runoff from the surrounding snowpack melt inundates the Bay, causing the water level to rise and permitting paddlers the unique chance to paddle amongst alders and other trees that are temporarily flooded with spring melt. Well worth the 30 minute drive from Portland, this is a must-visit destination if you’re in the area.

Hagg Lake

Located 35 miles west of Portland, this man-made lake is fed by multiple rivers and creeks and offers an excellent paddling opportunity as well as surrounding amenities. There are picnic locations dotted around the lake’s shore and boat ramps for easy access to the water. Since the lake is stocked with trout, it becomes a popular fishing destination when it opens for the season in early March. Waterfowl and birds of prey are common sights and can make for some impressive entertainment as you paddle the serene waters of this area.

Gilbert River

This 4.5 mile waterway is easily accessible by a Wildlife Management Area (though it charges a $7 fee for parking) and is a mecca for watersports enthusiasts of all types. Paddlers and boaters aren’t the only ones who flock to this area–a large population of wildlife such as bald eagles, blue herons, river otters, beavers, walleye, bass, and sturgeon are known to inhabit the area as well. Make sure to check the tide charts before visiting the river as water levels can change seasonally.

Tualatin River

If you are interested in an extended trip that will provide exciting changes in scenery, the Tualatin is an outstanding option. Because the size of the river varies, larger craft are not able to navigate the waters which makes for a peaceful cruise. Starting in the Coast Range and flowing almost 80 miles east to its confluence with the Willamette, the river passes through several towns along the way. Plan a stop in Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, or West Linn for a snack as you enjoy fishing and bird watching along the way.

Estacada Lake (River Mill Reservoir)

Nestled pristinely at the base of the Cascade Range sits Estacada Lake. This lake is a favorite destination for Portland residents who want to experience a more peaceful environment without a long drive. The nearby Milo McIver State Park is a popular camping destination, so you can spend all day exploring the area and spend all night recharging for a repeat the next day. The lake is stocked with trout and is open from the middle of March through October. In autumn, the hillsides are awash with the colors of fall, making for a truly spectacular experience.

Willamette River Water Trail

Most people are familiar with the Willamette River as one of the major waterways in the state. Flowing almost 190 miles north from Eugene to Portland, and passing through the cities of Corvallis and Salem along the way, history is steeped in the waters of this river that has shaped the past, present, and future of Oregon. Once a major travel route for steamships and riverboats, the river is now a favorite destination for adventure seekers of all types. Plan a short day trip or make preparations for a longer multi-day journey. No matter how long you spend, a trip down the Willamette is sure to be unforgettable.

Clear Lake

Like its name implies, this spring-fed lake is crystal clear and thus is teeming with wildlife. No motorboats are permitted which contributes to the peacefulness of the area. Geologic features such as lava flows line the eastern shore of the lake, and it is possible to see remnants of the sunken forest that once covered the region. There are campsites dotted around the shore, as well as cabins for rent at the Clear Lake Resort, but make sure you reserve early as this popular destination is a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts. There’s also a restaurant at the Resort so you can grab a bite when you’ve worked up an appetite. If you want to stretch your legs and take a break from being on the water, take a stroll around hiking trails that encircle the lake’s edge.

Hosmer Lake

Whether you’re an experienced paddler or just taking your first strokes, Hosmer Lake is an excellent place to experience the best of Oregon. Located on the eastern side of the Cascades and a short drive from Bend and Sunriver, Hosmer is a long, narrow lake that is off-limits to powerboats so you can enjoy calm waters in peace. Along the way, you will be astounded by views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister off in the distance, while in closer proximity you will spot numerous species of ducks, river otters, geese, and other songbirds. Fishing is permitted but is restricted to fly fishing. After a long day, be sure to check out some of the surrounding campgrounds in the area where you can rest and recharge and do it all over again the next day.

Waldo Lake

This is a not-to-be-missed destination if you are adventuring in Oregon. Situated at over 5,400 feet elevation, Waldo Lake is 10 square miles of liquid incredible. The shoreline is crenulated with numerous coves and inlets, and multiple islands dot the inside of the lake, providing a seemingly endless array of places to explore. The water is crystal clear and on a calm day it’s not impossible to see down over 100 feet to the lake bottom. The indigo waters provide the perfect mirror off of which reflect majestic views of the North and South Sisters, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Yoran. Plan ahead for camping at some of the surrounding campgrounds, and bring your hiking shoes or even your mountain bike as there are trails around the lake perimeter when you’re ready to change it up. The weather can change rather rapidly here to make sure to be prepared for all conditions–you won’t want to miss a moment on Waldo Lake!

Trillium Lake

If you’re a beginner to the sport of paddle boarding, Trillium Lake is an outstanding place to hone your skills. No motorboats are allowed which preserves the gentle peace of the water so you can focus on your technique. The 65-acre lake is fairly shallow and affords incredible views of Mt. Hood which towers regally in the distance. There is a day-use area as well as primitive camping around the water’s edge, so make sure to plan ahead if you want to make a multi-day adventure.

From pristine high mountain lakes to calm meandering rivers, Oregon has some of the most exciting paddling opportunities available. Whether you are making a quick day trip from Portland or planning an overnight adventure, you won’t want to miss these incredible places. Bring your camera, we’d love to see where your paddle board takes you!

lake isle inflatable paddle board

10 Top Rated Paddle Board Destinations in Idaho

Fun fact: did you know that 38% of Idaho is owned by the United States Forest Service? While its reputation is often most pronounced in the produce aisle, there’s far more growing in Idaho than just everyone’s favorite tuber. Check out our list below and get ready to discover some of the most rugged and pristine natural beauty this country has to offer.

Lake Cascade

There’s something for everyone at this recreation hotspot in central Idaho. Deemed “The Mile High Playground,” this area is perfect for paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and camping. Under the water’s surface, a lucky angler will find trout, smallmouth bass, kokanee and coho salmon. Above the surface, you may spot eagles, herons, hawks, osprey, moose, deer, and other wildlife. A boat ramp provides easy access on and off the water, while nearby Lake Cascade State Park has over 2,000 opportunities for camping so you can find rest after a long day of fun and exploration.

Alice Lake

If working hard to get away from crowds is your idea of a getaway, look no further than Alice Lake. Another high alpine gem tucked away in the Sawtooths, this one sits at a cool 8,600 feet above sea level. As a result, there is often ice on the lake well into early summer, so it’s best to plan for a trip around July or August. It’s a hike to get there, but once you arrive at the lake, you’ll be greeted with crystal clear emerald water ringed by towering trees and soaring peaks. The water is cold and contains a small number of trout, so fishing is allowed but it\’s recommended to catch and release to support a sustainable population. Bonus: in late summer, wild huckleberries can be found dotting the hillsides, providing a delicious snack for animals and humans alike.

Lake Pend Oreille

Surrounded by picturesque mountains and rolling green forests, Lake Pend Oreille will provide endless amounts of fun for the intrepid explorer. The lake boasts almost 150 square miles of surface area, and is also measured to be the fifth deepest lake in the United States. The great depths are home to numerous species of aqueous creatures, and if you ask the locals, you’ll even hear about one that is surrounded by legend and mystery: the Pend Oreille Paddler, which is the area’s own version of the Loch Ness monster. If searching for clues makes you hungry, pull up to the lakeside town of Sandpoint and refuel yourself before enjoying a sunset over the nearby Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Priest Lake

Tucked away near the northernmost part of the Idaho Panhandle lies another destination you won’t want to miss. Essentially two lakes joined together, Upper and Lower Priest Lake have been a popular tourist spot for locals and visitors alike. Wildlife sightings are frequent, and there are some geological points of interest as well–the lake is a remnant of the Great Flood that affected this area over 10,000 years ago during the end of the last ice age. There may not be any glaciers left, but there are still plenty of things that make this a very cool place to explore.

Henry’s Lake

Though a relatively smaller sized lake at just over 8 square miles, Henry’s Lake is still well worth a visit. Sitting just below 6,500 feet above sea level, the lake beautifully mirrors the surrounding peaks of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Near the north end of the lake runs a portion of the Continental Divide Trail, and on the southern side of the lake sits Frome Park, home to hiking trails, camping, and other amenities. Binoculars will help you spot the pelicans, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, geese, and other birds that frequent the area.

Redfish Lake

High in the Sawtooth Mountains is nestled Redfish Lake, named for the large population of sockeye salmon that were known to inhabit the waters prior to popular settlement. While their numbers have dwindled (the salmon are currently protected and forbidden to be fished), At an elevation of over 6,500 feet, the fresh mountain air hangs gently over your head as the crystal clear waters shimmer underfoot. The lake has a beach and a boat launch area making for easy access, and when you’re done you can stop for a bite at the Redfish Lodge which sits at the water\’s edge. Plan ahead and reserve a camp spot, or make it a day trip–either way, Redfish Lake is sure to impress.

C.J. Strike Reservoir

For a family friendly getaway in the southwester portion of Idaho, the C.J. Strike Reservoir is a great place to beat the summer heat. Four campgrounds and associated amenities provide easy access to the water as well as respite once your activities get the best of you. Big game fishing is also hugely popular here, and you’ll see anglers reeling in all kinds of varieties of fish including largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, pumpkinseed, and rainbow trout. Bring your fishing pole and bring some sunscreen so you can stay safe while chasing that next big catch.

Lucky Peak Reservoir

Fed by the Boise River and just southeast of the city of Boise is this 4.5 square-mile area of liquid heaven. Start at Lucky Peak State Park, near the north end of the reservoir, where you will find a sandy beach that makes for a great launch point. From there, you can explore the shoreline as you navigate the expanse of the lake. The vast waterway stretches across three counties–Ada, Boise, and Elmore–before reaching the Lucky Peak Dam, the feature responsible for the creation of the lake itself. Although it was originally constructed for irrigation and water management purposes, the lake now serves as a major recreational hotspot for Boise natives as well as visitors from all over.

Deadwood Reservoir

Don’t be misled by the name–the Deadwood Reservoir is truly home to an abundance of life and activity. The lake was formed in 1931 when President Coolidge authorized the construction of a dam on the South Fork of the Payette River. Due to the remote and rugged location, numerous roads had to be built to provide access to the area. Today, these roads provide a scenic approach to this wonderful spot. A picnic area and boat ramp provide access for watercraft, and camping opportunities surround the shoreline if you’re looking to make an overnight stay. Fun fact: the water is home to a diverse group of fish from the salmon family, and for this reason, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game makes use of spawning runs out of this reservoir to collect kokanee eggs which are then flown to hatcheries and eventually stoked into other lakes and reservoirs throughout the state.

Lake Coeur d’Alene

Last but certainly not least is this fabulous natural lake in the heart of the Idaho Panhandle. Fed by two outstanding fishing rivers–the Coeur d’Alene and the Saint Joe–the lake stretches for approximately 25 miles and is ringed by impressive mountains and lush forests. At the northern end of the lake sits the City of Coeur d’Alene, a haven for summertime funseekers. Catch a breathtaking view of fireworks from the nature trails at Tubbs Hill, grab some ice cream, or work on your short game at one of the many golf courses that the area has to offer. It may have more traffic since this is a resort town, but there are many reasons so many people come here each summer to live, play, and explore.

As you can see, Idaho is home to a vast variety of natural wonders waiting to be enjoyed. There is tremendous variation from the north end of the state to the south, so there’s bound to be something for every paddle preference. Bring a camera, we’d love to see where you end up! Have fun and stay safe out there.

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north end of the state to the south, so there’s bound to be something for every paddle preference. Bring a camera, we’d love to see where you end up! Have fun and stay safe out there.

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10 Epic Paddles in Washington State

From hidden islands, to the peaceful coast, to rugged mountains, and everything in between, Washington state is home to some of the most magnificent paddle boarding opportunities in the country. Whether you’re planning a single day getaway or a multiday excursion, Washington has some of the best places to paddle! Pack up your kit and let’s start exploring.

Lake Union

If you’re in Seattle, the hustle and bustle of the city might distract you from the fact that a spectacular paddle is just minutes away. At the end of a long day, nothing beats a peaceful cruise on the water, and Lake Union is a fantastic place to do just that. A couple of miles from the city center, this quick escape is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Grab a snack and your favorite brew and head out on the water to catch a sunrise, sunset, or just a peaceful moment among the busy city life.

Stuart Island

Paddle boarders aren’t the only ones to flock to this supreme spot; wildlife is bountiful as well. It is here that the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass come together and form a haven for the wild orcas. Keep your eyes peeled for pods as they meandering through the waters, but don’t forget to look up as well–seal harbors often dot the coast while bald eagles fill the sky. Stuart Island may not be the most accessible area, but its combination of pristine waters and abundant wildlife make the trip worth it. If you want to plan a multi-day excursion, plan to camp at one of the two campsites at the southern and eastern ends of the island.

Orcas Island

For an easier getaway in the San Juans, paddle out 4 miles due east from the Orcas Island Ferry to get to Obstruction State Park. You’ll see copious amounts of wildlife while still being close to civilization once you are ready for a break. The Park has 9 campsites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so overnight options exist as well.

Lake Wenatchee

Crystal clear, cold and crisp waters await you at Lake Wenatchee. Just two hours east of Seattle, this glacial fed lake is a wonderful place for a day’s excursion. You can fish for the multiple species that the lake is home to, or catch some rays as you relax and read your favorite novel. Morning is the best time to paddle as the lake is like glass; but pack enough supplies as you might want to spend the whole day soaking up the surrounding views.

Point Doughty State Park

If you’re looking for the ideal one-two punch, be sure to check out Point Doughty State Park. Start by paddling west along the shore and you’ll be rewarded with views of harbor seals, bald eagles, starfish, and even the occasional harbor porpoise. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can dock at the Park to use the amenities and find a comfortable place for a bite. With your energy restored, take a quick hike to the ridge to achieve some stunning views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding islands over which it towers. The best part about the Park? It’s accessible only to boat traffic, so you know you’ll be in good company once you arrive.

Lake Crescent

One of the best kept secrets about Washington is nestled up in the northwestern most corner of the state. Take a drive through the Olympic Peninsula National Park and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a jungle. Situated amongst the lush green mountains are sparkling lakes and waterways prime for paddle boarding. One favorite is Lake Crescent, where breathtaking mountains rise high around you and pristine waters run deep below you. Enjoy portions of the 8.5 miles of lake length or find a small cove and spend the afternoon exploring the details–in either case, you’ll love the beauty and fun around every corner of this incredible lake.

Lake Roosevelt

Straddling the border with our neighbors to the north, Canadian and American citizens alike have enjoyed this waterway since it was created via damming of the Columbia in 1941. The resulting reservoir stretches over 125 square miles, or 80,000 acres with over 600 acres of shoreline. What does this all add up to? An incredible place for one or many days’ adventure on a paddle board. There are numerous access points around the lake that make it easy to get to the water. Fishing is a popular pastime here as well with numerous species active throughout the year. As with all locations, please remember to pack out your trash and follow the principles of Leave No Trace guidelines to minimize impact and maximize enjoyment for generations to come.

Alki Beach Park

If you like paddling in an area that also has interesting history, this is the perfect place for your next adventure. It was at this location more than 150 years ago that the first pioneer settlers met with Chief Seattle to establish the present-day megapolis of the same name. Head out around the Point to read up on the history and check out the memorial monument that was put in place to commemorate the historical significance of the area. Sunset, sunrise, or everything in between, a visit to Alki Beach Park is sure to open your eyes to Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the stunning surrounding scenery that Seattle has to offer.

Colchuck Lake

If hiking to earn your strokes is your idea of a good time, this is the perfect paddle for you. The elevation gain on the 8-mile trip is roughly 2,280 feet so bring plenty of water and snacks so you have enough energy to enjoy the water when you finally arrive at this alpine gem. The surrounding Cascade Mountains are jagged and spectacular, and are home to some of the most rugged conditions in the northwest. Snow lingers late into the summer, so bring proper layers but be ready to soak up the sunshine–there’s nothing quite like floating on the emerald green waters while basking in the warm summer glow.

Lake Chelan

With over 50 miles of lake, there’s no shortage of recreational opportunities to be enjoyed at Lake Chelan. A watersports mecca, there are plenty of places to find easy access to sensational locations. Chances are good that you’ll be in the company of other boating enthusiasts. If this is daunting, be sure to check out one of the smaller lakes near Manson, the Chelan River, or Riverwalk Park. Keep your eyes out for SCUBA divers, who are known to frequent a portion of the lake called the Lucerne Basin–one of the three deepest gorges in the nation. When it’s at its peak, the gorge drops more than 1,400 feet down in an area only a mile wide. For this reason, the water in the area stays cold and fresh well into the summer, making for the idea refreshment for beating the summer heat.

With so many epic places, it can be difficult to choose where to head on your next adventure. Fortunately, Washington state has access to some of the most incredible waterways in the country. Crisp glacially fed waters lay adjacent to lush forests and towering mountains and the result is some truly spectacular places to enjoy your paddle board. Ocras, bald eagles, and all sorts of natural wonders lay in waiting to be discovered by the intrepid adventurer. As always, make sure to check your local laws and regulations and always have proper safety gear and awareness. Paddling in the Evergreen State provides some truly epic opportunities, so be safe and have fun out there!

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10 Pristine Paddle Board Destinations Hidden Around Denver Colorado

Colorado is home to some of the premiere waterways in the United States. Surrounded by enormous pines, mountains as far as the eye can see, and house-sized boulders, there is no shortage of adventure in the Centennial State. Plus, with a city like Denver so close by, excitement begins just outside your doorstep. So, in no particular order, here are ten top-rated paddles that anyone can enjoy!

Horsetooth Reservoir

At approximately one hour from Denver, this location is a bit of a drive, but trust us–it’s well worth the trip. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by sweeping views of over six square miles of liquid awesome. There’s lots to explore, and getting there is simple; boat launches around the reservoir make for easy access on and off the water.

Boulder Reservoir

Just adjacent to the smaller Sixmile Reservoir, this spot sits at a cool 5,177’ ASL. Start your adventure here by launching at one of two beaches on the south side of the lake near the Community Sailing of Colorado. From there, explore the peninsula to the west or the inlet to the north; whichever direction you go, you’re certain to find some hidden treasures. Since motorized craft are allowed on the lake, stick close to shore if you’re forced to share the water with other boaters.

Chatfield Lake

So good it was worth making bigger, this 1,423 acre reservoir was recently expanded to allow for greater volume. Not only did this increase the area available to paddlers, it also allowed more space for our furry friends–the area is frequented by over 300 bird species and home to numerous mammals. You can also check out the Audubon Center which offers natural education programs to enthusiasts of all ages to dive deeper into an informative paddle boarding experience.

Evergreen Lake

Though it sits next to the Evergreen Golf Course, this lake still boasts breathtaking views in every direction. Park your vehicle at the east end of the reservoir and climb a short set of stairs before being greeted with views of Evergreen and the surrounding area. Explore the perimeter and check out some of the impressive architectural accomplishments that dot the water’s edge. This lake is also open to motorized and non-motorized vessels.

Lake Pueblo State Park

When you’re looking for a real getaway away from the hustle and bustle, travel south to Pueblo Lake for a true change of scenery. It’s easy to get on the water from one of the two local marinas, and when you’re exhausted from a long day of paddling, there are plenty of nearby campgrounds to call home. Also, don’t forget your rod and license as this lake offers some outstanding fishing opportunities.

Standley Lake

Fresh air and pure water – these two essential ingredients for life are in abundance at Standley Lake. Grab your paddle board and come back to life at this rejeuvenating spot. With the 96’ foot deep lake composing approximately one third of the surrounding Standley Lake Regional Park, there is no shortage of places to discover both on and off the water. The area also has a boat ramp and a restroom facility for easy access.

South Platte River

On a sunny day, expect to see a multitude of people recreating in this popular Denver locale. Enjoyed by kayakers, sunbathers, and photographers alike, this river provides a wonderful natural resource minutes from the heart of downtown Denver. Plus, getting to the river has gotten significantly easier: it was originally called Niinéniiniicíihéhe by the native Arapaho people, so typing South Platte into your GPS will save you tons of valuable time on the water.

Bear Creek Lake

If you love the feeling of sand between your toes and sun on your face, make sure to drop in at the Big Soda Lake beach at this regional park area. There is a dedicated swimming area as well as plenty of water beyond to explore on your board. And, with the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre within eye- and earshot, you might be able to catch some jams to rock out to while paddling the cool waters.

Clear Lake

This area may be 40 miles from the City, but the drive is enjoyable as it takes you over the scenic Guanella Pass road. Access the lake and find yourself surrounded by high country pine forests and lush rolling hills. There is no development around the lake so if you’re seeking solitude, Clear Lake is well worth the ride.

Shadow Mountain Lake

Intricate coves. Mysterious Islands. Towering mountains. If these things interest you, take a trip up to the Granby area to enjoy this lake. Bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, there are some magnificent movie-worthy vistas as well as a few islands to circumnavigate. As a bonus, and since paddle boards are so nimble, you can travel east along a small channel and find yourself on the adjoining Grand Lake.

Pack it up and get paddling!

Whether you’re seeking a quick getaway or planning an overnight expedition, Colorado offers a multitude of incredible paddling opportunities. Pack light or bring the kitchen sink, there’s a paddle boarding spot for everyone and you don’t always have to travel far to get it! Have fun and always remember to stay safe while on the water.

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Don’t Miss The Best 10 Places to Paddle Board in Arizona in 2020

Think Arizona is Just Desert? Think Again!

For most people, thoughts of Arizona evoke imagery of dry deserts and hot sands. While the Sonoran may reign supreme as the dominating element, hidden lakes and rivers dot Arizona’s landscape like sparkling gems. Next time you’re in The Grand Canyon State, be sure to plan extra time to explore these excellent paddle locations.

Please note, It’s also important to remember that water levels in these areas can be especially susceptible to change. Make sure to ask for local advice depending on the season, and as always wear a life jacket.

With that said, let’s jump right in and get paddling!

Saguaro Lake – Mesa AZ

It may be hard to picture the juxtaposition of calm waters and majestic cacti side by side, but here at Saguaro Lake, you really can have it all. Add in the fact that this area is just a short drive from Phoenix and you have one of the most popular areas for watersport recreation. The lake is situated within the Tonto National Forest and boasts over 22 miles of shoreline. Amenities include a restaurant, picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat ramp at the park marina. Locals suggest launching from Butcher Jones Recreation Area, a beach that is accessed by road a few short miles north of the marina. If you are lucky, you might also see some of the wild horses that live around the area and are known to visit the beach as well!

Lone Rock Canyon – Page AZ

Arguably one of the most recognizable and unforgettable paddle experiences in the state, Lone Rock Canyon is a must for any avid paddle enthusiast. Stunning views and peaceful waters are all around, and a multitude of beaches and access points makes it easy to get out on the water. Thrill seekers will love jumping from cliffs along the walls of the canyon, while chill seekers will love setting up shade on the beach and watching the world float by. If you are in the Page AZ area, don’t miss the chance to stop at Lone Rock and paddle around some of the finest waters the state has to offer.

Big Lake – Apache County AZ

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, pack up your board and head to the hidden gem that is Big Lake. Located at an elevation of over 9,000 feet, this lake does not allow the use of gas engines which preserves the peacefulness and serenity of the water. This makes it a great place to start out if you are just learning, or to explore more in depth if you are an established expert. If you are inclined, you can also pack a fishing rod as the lake boasts a healthy population of trout. Load up and leave it all behind to enjoy the spectacular mountain and forest scenery that envelops Big Lake.

Lower Salt River – Mesa AZ

Photo credit: scottferrisphoto via flickr

Towering cliffs and vibrant vegetation surround you as you venture to the Lower Salt River. The gentle waters provide refreshment from the hot Arizona sun, and the slower pace of the river provides an exceptional opportunity for people of all levels to hone their skills. The river meanders through the Tonto National Forest so you can enjoy a long, comfortable ride while traveling through some of the finest scenery the state has to offer.

Upper Salt River – Mesa AZ

Photo credit: Richard Durnan via flickr

If you are looking for a more challenging paddling experience, the Upper portion of the Salt River may be just what you seek. Taking proper safety precautions, you can access portions of faster moving water and churning water that will get your adrenaline flowing along with the river. The initial part of this stretch is fascinating from a geological standpoint, boasting impressive rock formations that adorn the natural landscape. Remember to pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and other essentials to maximize your enjoyment!

Blue Ridge Reservoir – Flagstaff AZ

This scenic high-country lake is a favorite for paddlers of all kinds. Located between Flagstaff and Payson, and nestled at 6,700 feet elevation among lush forests and rolling peaks, you are sure to find plenty of liquid adventure here. The surrounding Coconino National Forest is home for various kinds of wildlife, and the narrow, deep lake is home to species of trout, green sunfish, and bullhead. Locals suggest fishing in the spring or early summer before temperatures rise. Once you are exhausted from your exploration and adventure, pitch a tent at one of the first-come, first-served campsites that surround the area, get a good night’s rest, and wake up early to do it all over again.

Lake Roosevelt – Gilbert AZ

This manmade lake was formed as part of the Salt River dam project and thus is typically full of tranquil water for most of the year. You can make a stop nearby in Gilbert to acquire whatever essentials you need, then embark for a trip onto the serene waters of Lake Roosevelt. The shape of the lake hides numerous features so you’ll have plenty of exploration to do as you cruise around. Locals suggest launching from the east side of the lake where the Schoolhouse Point boat ramp provides easy access. If ornithology is your thing, keep your eyes out as there is a vast population of birds in the area–it is common to see turkey vultures, yellow-headed blackbirds, great blue herons, osprey, and many others.

Woods Canyon Lake – Payson AZ

Although this lake is relatively smaller than the others on this list, it still provides an excellent opportunity for exploration and recreation. The lake stretches over approximately 55 acres and its shoreline is stacked with majestic pines, hearty bushes, and flowing grasses. There are also some rock formations of note dotted about the shoreline; a paddle board provides the perfect way to access these areas and study the natural splendor. We love the fact that the lake is pet-friendly so even our four legged friends can enjoy the water. In addition, this lake forbids the use of gasoline powered engines so you–and your pet–can enjoy the scenery in peace.

Black Canyon Water Trail – Willow Beach AZ

If you’re up for some serious adventure, this float is perfect for you. Designated a National Water Trail in 2014 by the Secretary of the Interior, this 30 mile stretch of the Colorado River passes by caves, coves, hot springs, wilderness areas, and open desert. It is not uncommon to see desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife along the cliffs, and historic structures from the time of the Hoover Dam construction are also visible along the way. The river can be accessed at the Hoover Dam, but take note: a permit is required and must be obtained prior to launch. Because of the security surrounding the Dam, as well as the uniqueness of the experience, the paddle is required to be done with an authorized vendor so you’ll need to check in first before heading out. It may take a little extra advance planning, but this is an incredible experience you won’t want to miss.

Bear Canyon Lake – Apache-Sitegraves National Forest AZ

This last place on our list is reserved for those who want to avoid the crowds and aren’t afraid to work a little extra to do so. Access to the 60 acre lake requires a short, fairly steep hike, which makes it ideal if you are looking to avoid the populus at the other lakes of the Mogollon Rim. Watercraft are permitted, but they must be carried in–making an inflatable paddle board the ideal way to get out and enjoy this area. Fishing is permitted and a primitive first-come first-served campground is nestled roughly a quarter mile from the lake. If you are seeking a more secluded getaway and aren’t afraid to earn it, this is the perfect place for you.

Although water can sometimes be in short supply in the desert, Arizona still holds some of the nation’s premiere natural and manmade waterways for recreation and adventure. From lakes to rivers to reservoirs, you will love experiencing the marvels of the desert while enjoying the comfort and convenience of inflatable paddle boards. With opportunities such as history, natural science, fishing, camping, and others, paddling Arizona is an experience as unforgettable as the colors of the desert sunset.

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