WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE - NEAR GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA

Like its nearby sister-lake, Woods Canyon, Willow Springs Lake 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.

Fish Species

Rainbow Trout, Large-mouth Bass and Small-mouth Bass.

Fishing Strategy

An Arizona State fishing license is required to fish this lake.  Ice fishing is a popular sport on this lake in the winter months. Be sure to check ice conditions before venturing out on the lake in winter.

Willow Springs Lake is stocked weekly with catchable size Rainbow trout from May through September annually. When fishing from the shore, try nightcrawlers. Trolling for trout is usually productive. Spinner baits and artificial worm rigs work well for bass around underwater structure. In the summer the fish typically move to deeper depths of between 10 to 20 feet. The lake contains crayfish, so using lures that imitate them is a good way to attract bass. A fishing license with a trout stamp is required for anglers over 13 years old. The daily bag limit is six trout and six bass and bass limits are halved for unlicensed anglers 13 and younger.

Boating Options

Boat motors are restricted to electric or 10 hp or less gas motors.  There is a paved boat ramp.

Camping Options

There is no dispersed camping  allowed within 1/2 mile of the lake, but Sinkhole Campground is within walking distance of the lake.   Amenities include barrier-free toilets, 2 picnic ramadas and 2 boat beaches. There are 2 campgrounds including the Sinkhole Campground which is closest to the lake and is open year-round. It has 26 camping sites, barrier-free toilets and drinking water. Camping fee is $12 per vehicle and is subject to change.

The much larger Canyon Point Campground, is located 3 miles east of Forest Road 149, adjacent to Highway 260. It has 100 single-family sites, plus two group sites that can accommodate up to 40 people and 70 people respectively. The campground features potable water, a shower building, dump station and barrier-free toilets. Some sites have electricity. Daytime and evening programs on nature-related topics are presented in the campground amphitheater from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The campground is open from May 1 to October 31. Fees vary, call (877) 444-6777 for more information.

Directions

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