Canyon Lake reopens for boating
By Candace S. Hughes, Editor
CANYON LAKE – Anglers anxious to bring their boats to Canyon Lake northeast of Apache Junction are now able to return to the lake, but Dolly Steamboat won’t be in operation until Feb. 18.
Boaters were again allowed to fish Feb. 9, but anglers have been permitted to fish from the shore through the time of lowered lake levels since September while the Salt River Project did dam maintenance.
“The lake was filled up about a week ago ((Jan. 29) in the previous weekend storm,” said Jeff Lane, an SRP spokesman. “When I last checked, our construction work was finished except for a few things that can be completed when the lake is filled,” he added.
“There’s lots of debris such as logs washed down because of the flooding from Fish Creek and boaters should use caution,” said Art Wirtz, Mesa district ranger for Tonto National Forest. The forest service will pick up the items as they are washed to the shoreline, he said.
“Due to recent flooding, the lake has stirred-up sediment,” Wirtz said. “It’s pretty risky for boaters right now and we are discouraging boating use.
“Boaters risk motor burn-out due to the high sediment load. The Canyon Lake Marina has already burned up two of their motors due to this situation,” he added.
“There’s lots of stuff in the water that boaters aren’t used to seeing. The turbidity and the churning up of the water from the storms could cause sediment to get into motors,” Wirtz cautions. “It will take awhile for it all to settle out.”
“Anglers were interested in getting back on there, but we caution them to run slowly and watch for debris,” he emphasized.
“The marina is all moved back to its original location and new configuration,” said Chuck Richards, marina manager. “ It should be ready for our marina customers for complete access by mid February.”
Although there had been a road closure at Tortilla Flat during flooding, the Apache Trail is now open from Apache Junction to the lake.
While repairs were being made at the dams on either end of Canyon Lake, volunteers and staff with the Arizona Game and Fish Department have been busy making improvements.
Additional fish and habitat were added to the lake during the boating closure, said Natalie Robb, fisheries program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
“We put 3,080 large mouth bass into Saguaro in early November and stocked with 545 small mouth bass also in early November. We are also going to continue stocking large mouth and small mouth this spring,” she said.
“When they lowered the lake, there was still enough water to sustain the fish that were already in there. We are stocking bass as part of a research project to see if stocking bass will help curtail the effects of golden alga on the bass populations at Saguaro, Canyon and Apache lakes,” Robb added.
“The fish habitat project turned out great. We built over 500 structures on Teddy Bear, Mormon Flat and Beaver Landing. We received over 1,000 donated Christmas trees and tied them to the pyramids,” she said of the effort by Game and Fish employees and volunteers.
Vegetation such as cattails in the non-motorized area will come back as the lake levels are re-established and trees weren’t harmed because they normally are dormant during the winter months, he explained.
“There were only a few months without water,” he said.
While wildlife was temporarily disrupted and fewer may be seen for awhile, they eventually will settle back in, Wirtz said.
The March 1 grand reopening from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. will have activities and displays including a helicopter from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office with 100 bags for children, a Salt River Project booth, 100 bags for kids, Smoky the Bear and Woodsy Owl from the U.S. Forest Service with gifts for children and a return of two animals to the wild by Adobe Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
In addition, there will be Dutch oven cooking demonstrations, 200 free hotdogs provided by Lakeside Restaurant, a car club exhibit, a history booth by Superstition Mountain Museum and free watercraft safety inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Coastie the Coast Guard robot will also be present.
Dolly Steamboat will have a 10 a.m. kickoff cruise after a ribbon cutting with tours at noon and 2 p.m. There also will be a Little Miss Dolly contest for girls ages 5-10 in Victorian dress.
Dolly steamboat returns Feb. 18 at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Rides March 1 will be at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 5:30 with dinner and sky gazing tours also scheduled. Tickets are required. For ticket information call 480-827-9144 or visit http://www.dollysteamboat.com.
For further information about conditions on Canyon Lake, please call the Mesa ranger district: (480) 610-3300 or visit the Tonto National Forest Web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto