Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Canyon Lake

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Regular and rare water species as well as desert species

Elevation: 1670'

Habitat:  Open reservoir with surrounding desert canyons and mountains

Overall Birding Rating: 3

Difficulty: 1-2 (Easy to Fairly Easy)

Birding Type: Boating, Walking and Scanning, Get Out and Scan, Easy Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, restrooms, marina with boat rentals

Fees/Ownership:  Six dollar Tonto National Forest Fee

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Apache Junction /37 miles east-northeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Reached by different parking areas and pull offs along the Apache Trail

Overview:  The beautiful Canyon Lake almost "leads off" the amazing scenic drive of the Apache Trail.  Overshadowed by tall cliffs and desert hills, Canyon Lake is very scenic itself, and sets the tone for the rest of the Apache Trail adventure.  The lake especially has more beautiful views in the morning light when the sun is first coming up.  Canyon Lake has a lot of open water to scope out, and there are many convenient viewing spots and pull offs to scan the lake.  Apart from viewing and birding the open waters, Canyon Lake also has several peaceful coves, as well as good mesquite habitat in some of the recreation and camping areas.  Birding wise, this lake is best to be birded from late fall through early spring for migrating and wintering waterbirds.  Among the waterbirds to be found, Canyon Lake is highly favored by grebes.  Watch for Western and Clark's Grebes, as well as the common Eared and Pied-billed Grebes, and possibly a more rare Horned Grebe.  The surrounding desert is excellent for viewing desert birds, and the coves and mesquite habitat will be good places to look for different migrants during the spring and fall.  This is one of the reservoirs created by the Salt River.

Birding Tip:  Bring a scope to view the lake.  Besides the recreation areas of the lake, there are many convenient pull offs along the Apache Trail that overlook the lake.  This is a good way to bird the lake and avoid a fee. 

Directions:  On accessing the beginning route to the Apache Trail, refer to the main Apache Trail page.  Once on the Apache Trail, Canyon Lake is ten miles past the intersection of Lost Dutchman Boulevard and Apache Trail (Highway 88), starting at mile marker 209 and continuing for a few miles through the recreation area of the lake.  There are many pull offs and recreation areas to park and bird.


Canyon Lake Maps

Canyon Lake eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from Canyon Lake:


Birdlife of Canyon Lake:

Horned Grebe (Rare but annual visitor)


Back to Area 3-Apache Trail

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