Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Arizona > Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake was formed by the construction of a masonry dam on the Salt River in 1911, making it the oldest artificial reservoir in Arizona. About 10 miles of the original river are now beneath the waters, and in the other direction one of its major tributaries, Tonto Creek, is flooded for about 8 miles although the lake level and hence the overall length is quite variable. It is a major center for fishing, boating, camping and general vacationing, and despite being quite close to Phoenix, the shortest route is via the unpaved Apache Trail, so the number of visitors is rather less than for some other water-based recreational sites in the Tonto National Forest with easier access such as Lake Pleasant and Saguaro Lake.


The lake is the largest in the state except for those on the Colorado River, and the southwest shoreline is easily reached from AZ 188, which runs close to the lake for most of its 18 mile length, passing various marinas and campsites. Some of these sites used to be free, but a recent change in policy has meant that fees are now charged. There is little access to the northeast side as the terrain here is more mountainous. One track (FR 60, or A Cross Road) winds through the hills from AZ 288 in the south to AZ 188 north of the lake but this runs several miles from the shore and only a few long and very bumpy 4WD trails lead towards the water. One point of interest along the track is Salome Creek, best approached from the north end - this is famous because of a short section of granite narrows ('The Jug') with smooth, sheer, pinkish-white walls, deep pools and waterfalls.

The Water

In common with other lakes in the Phoenix area, summer water temperatures of Theodore Roosevelt Lake can exceed 90 °F, but cooling afternoon thunderstorms are common. The last few years had seen a dramatic reduction in the water level, largely due to the need to maintain supply to the other lakes on the Salt River downstream - in some places the shoreline was half a mile distant from the previous high point. Still, in such conditions many good beaches are exposed which provide excellent camping opportunities, close to the water, although in some places soft mud makes vehicular travel difficult. One good location is Bachelor Cove, along AZ 188 a little north of Theodore Roosevelt Dam.
Highlights: Large artificial lake on the Salt River, used for fishing, boating and primitive lakeshore camping. The surroundings are quite scenic, a mixture of rocky peaks and cactus-covered hillsides
Nearest city with hotels: Globe, 30 miles
Management: USFS - part of Tonto National Forest
Location: 33.685, -111.115
Seasons: All year

Theodore Roosevelt Lake - Photographs

  • 10 views of Theodore Roosevelt Lake
  • photograph
    Hills on the east side of the lake
    Theodore Roosevelt Dam

    Saguaro cacti
    Nearby places Similar places

    Fish Creek (18 miles) rocky canyon with a permanent stream, leading to Apache Lake

    Superstition Mountains (adjacent) - desert hills east of Phoenix

    Tonto National Monument (adjacent) - Salado Indian ruins overlooking Theodore Roosevelt Lake
    Nearby places Similar places

    Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area - dramatic red cliffs above a large artificial lake

    Lake Pleasant - popular reservoir northwest of Phoenix
    Theodore Roosevelt Lake is part of the Indian Lands itinerary


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