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In the past few years stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has literally exploded all across America, and it has become extremely popular right here in Gila County, Arizona. Every weekend, you will see people out there on their stand up paddle boards. There are almost as many of these SUPs as there are surfers these days.

So what makes this sport or recreational past time so popular with both tourists and locals? What exactly is the lure of stand up paddle boarding and why are so many people seemingly addicted to it?  The answer is simple.  You get to stand up and relax!  The whole family can do it.  Below are some of our favorite places to paddle board but really any lake or deeper body of water is suitable for paddle boarding.


Photo Credit:  Monica Friedman

Stand Up Paddle Boarding At Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake (usually called Roosevelt Lake, sometimes Lake Roosevelt) is a large reservoir formed by Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River in Arizona as part of the Salt River Project (SRP). Located roughly 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Phoenix in the Salt River Valley, Theodore Roosevelt is the largest lake or reservoir located entirely within the state of Arizona (Lake Mead and Lake Powell are larger but both are located partially within the neighboring states of Nevada and Utah respectively). Both the reservoir and the masonry dam that created it, Roosevelt Dam, were named for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt who dedicated the dam himself in March 1911. Roosevelt Lake is a popular recreation destination within the Tonto National Forest, as such the facilities located at this lake are managed by that authority.  Paddle boarding isn’t just for celebrities and ocean dwellers. Roosevelt Lake is the perfect place to take up this new, relaxing, fun way of getting some exercise while soaking up the scenery. For more information, and amen about the lake click here.


Apache Trail Route. This is one of the most scenic drives in Arizona, particularly during the spring months when the desert is in bloom. From Apache Junction it's about a 50 mile drive, but a slow drive since about half of the route is winding dirt road along the northern edges of the Superstition Mountain Wilderness area. Take Highway 88 (Apache Trail) from Apache Junction which is a Phoenix suburb. You will pass Canyon Lake before entering the Ghost Town of Tortilla Flats. Shortly after the road through hairpin turns alongside sheer cliff dropoffs at Fish Creek Hill as the views of Apache Lake appear. Apache Trail then continues until it reaches Roosevelt Dam and Roosevelt Lake.

From Globe Arizona. Take Highway 188 for about 30 miles north of Globe.

From North Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale. Take Beeline Highway (Highway 87) north to Highway 188. Take 188 south for about 40 miles passing through Jake's Corner and Punkin Center to Lake Roosevelt. The route is all paved.


Photo Credit:  Monique Wheat Tafolla

Stand Up Paddle Boarding At Woods Canyon Lake

This short run along Tonto Creek is a thrilling trip through scenic and classic Arizona desert and narrow canyon.  the first part of the trips is a short run along Rye Creek which leads to a confluence with Tonto Creek.  Shortly after the confluence of the two creeks is the first major rapid.  Rye Creek Rapid, which is a class III rapid at ideal flows but can be upgraded to class V when flows are exceptionally high.  As the river enters the gorge there are multiple class III rapids and holes that will keep paddlers on their toes.  There is one spot of the canyon that narrows down to 12-feet but is passable and less-threatening than it may appear.  The remainder of the trip after leaving the canyon is relatively mild consisting of mostly class I and II rapids.  For more information about this lake click here.


Take State Route 87 to Payson. Go East On Highway 260 to the top of the Mogollon Rim.

Make a left after mile marker 282 onto Forest Road 300. Go 4 miles of FR 300 and take a right on RTE 105. The Lake, Store and non dispersed camping is one mile down RTE 105.

Photo Credit:  Bob Stevens

Stand Up Paddle Boarding at San Carlos Lake

With 158 miles of shoreline, San Carlos Lake is one of the largest lakes in Arizona when it’s full – averaging 19,500 acre-feet of water in a good season! One of eight lakes with desert surroundings, you’ll find deep blue waters framed by gaunt, rocky, cactus-speckled mountains – in this case, the foothills of the Gila and Mescal mountain ranges. Make a point of visiting this aquatic oasis.  It is a great place for scenic views.  For more information about the lake Click Here.

Permit Needed:

  • Check for latest permit costs at the Recreation & Wildlife Department in San Carlos

  • Permit required for fishing, hunting, or special-use

  • Family permits include parents and children 18 and under

  • Visitors to the Black and Salt Rivers or Bear Wallow Creek must have a special permit

  • No permit is needed for driving through on US 60, US 70, Road 800 to San Carlos, or Road 500 to Coolidge Dam

  • Black and Salt River permit may be used for fishing in those rivers or Bear Wallow Creek; special permit fees per day for ages 12 and up

  • Boat permits are issued on a daily or per calendar year basis; a combined fishing and boat permit can be purchased for a full calendar year

  • Water-skiing/personal watercraft permits are also available for annual access; free if under age 12 with a permit-holding adult

  • One-day permits are good for 24 hours, from midnight to midnight.

San Carlos Recreation and Wildlife Department
PO Box 97San Carlos, AZ 85550
(928) 475-2343


To reach San Carlos Lake, take State Route 70 east from Globe for 25 miles, then turn south at Indian Route 3. Stay on that road for nine and one-half miles to reach the Soda Canyon General Store, where you'll find a 60-foot-wide concrete launch ramp within a mile of the dam itself. The lake is a little over 100 miles east of Phoenix and about 125 miles north of Tucson. The San Carlos Apache Tribe has sovereign rights over the lake and the land, and the tribe has managed water recreation since 1968 under contracts with the U. S. Interior Department.



Photo Credit:  DJ Craig

Stand Up Paddle Boarding At Green Valley Park

Looking to get of the heat and paddle in a place with lush green grass, picnic areas, large amphitheater and 3 lakes for your relaxing pleasure?  Then we have the perfect place for you.  In Payson Arizona sits Green Valley Park and it largest lake is perfect for a relaxing paddle boarding experience.  The whole family will enjoy Green Valley Park.  Don't forget your fishing pole as it is stocked with trout by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  For more information about this lake click here.


From Phoenix – Take Highway 87 to Payson – Take a left on Main Street, go approximately 1.1 miles to the end of Main Street and you are at Green Valley Park.

From The White Mountains - Take Highway 260 to Payson – Turn left on Highway 87 going south. Take a right on Main Street, go approximately 1.1 miles to the end of Main Street and you are at Green Valley.


Photo Credit:  Rim Country Recreation

Stand Up Paddle Boarding At Willow Springs Lake

Like its nearby sister-lake, Woods Canyon, Willow Springs is one of the most accessible of the Rim lakes and has a very scenic setting in a heavily forested area on the edge of the Mogollon Rim. The landscape which includes Ponderosa Pine, Oak and Douglas Fir trees is simply gorgeous and at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, visitors can expect very pleasant temperatures in the spring and summer months. It's four season territory with a cool, colorful autumn, and a cold and snowy winter.  This is truly one of a kind lake with amazing views.  For more information about this lake click here.


From Heber. Take Highway 260 West to Forest Road 149. Follow signs. About 22 miles west of Heber Overgaard, Arizona.

From Payson. Take Highway 260 East to Forest Road 149. Follow signs. About 31 miles east of Payson, Arizona.


Photo Credit:  Ryan Lima

Stand Up Paddle Boarding At Blue Ridge Reservoir

Blue Ridge Reservoir is definitely a favorite of many paddle boarders in the state. The narrow, intimate lake is flanked by relatively steep pine-covered slopes, so it feels more like you’re paddling a slow-moving river than a broad lake. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only boat on the water here, as the lake curves around multiple bends just as a river does, obscuring other paddlers. With a treeline that comes right down to a 15-mile-long shoreline, the lake offers many opportunities to dock and enjoy a snack under the shade of the cool pines. Craggy rock outcroppings abound at the water’s edge, offering plenty of geologic eye-candy while you paddle past.

The lake is split between two arms. The western arm is much longer, while the southern arm includes the interesting curved dam that holds the water back. At an elevation of 6700 ft, the paddling season runs from May through October. While small motorized boats are allowed, this isn’t a place where paddlers will feel overwhelmed by motors.  For more information about this lake click here.


Blue Ridge Reservoir is located about 45 miles north of Payson, a roughly 2-hour drive from Phoenix. From Payson, continue north on Highway 87 for roughly 40 miles to FR751, near milepost 295. You’ll see a large US Forest Service sign pointing the way to Blue Ridge Reservoir (as with most paddlers, the CC Cragin name hasn’t quite taken hold). Turn east on FR751 and follow it about 4 miles to the boat ramp.

Willow Springs Lake

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Paddle Boarding Other Gila County Bodies of Water

Gila County has many other options for paddlers.  Click on Lakes and Streams to find more info. 

Don't see your favorite Paddle Boarding spot in Gila County.  Contact us and let us know where it is and how to get there along with a picture (if you have one) and we will add it to the website.  Click here to contact us

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