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When driving across Arizona, it is always an amazing experience to come upon a lake. With the desert landscape surrounding the water, the lake jumps out as the sapphire hues of the water sparkle against the jagged terrain. Bartlett Lake is one of those lakes in Arizona. A man-made reservoir, Bartlett Lake was formed by the damming of the Verde (Spanish: "Green") River. The pristine water of the Verde River was spoken of descriptively in legends of the Indians of the valley who called the water "sweet waters". The lake is framed by Sonoran desert scenery, with gentle sloping beaches on the west side and the rugged Mazatzal Mountains on the east side, studded with saguaro cacti and blooming Ocotillo. Located less than an hour from downtown Phoenix, Bartlett Lake can be found in the Tonto National Forest. While the facilities located at Bartlett Lake are managed by the Forest Service, the water levels are controlled by SRP (Salt River Project) - one of Arizona's largest utilities as a provider of power and water.
The primary inflow of Bartlett Lake is the Verde River. A 7,500 square mile watershed, fed by melted snow and runoff, begins just south of Flagstaff, flows east to Payson and the Mogollon Rim and then west near Prescott. The runoff goes into the Verde River. It continues into Horseshoe Lake and is then transferred into Bartlett Lake. The primary outflow is the Verde River. When full, Bartlett Lake covers 2,815 acres and holds nearly 180,000 acre feet of water.
Bartlett Lake experiences dramatic water level fluctuations. During 2008, the water levels have been very high, often above 95% full. The high water levels have resulted in debris in the water, so anglers should be on the lookout, but overall, visitors will be delighted with their fishing experience at Bartlett Lake. Fishermen can cast from the shore or from a boat (which can be rented) to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, carp, sunfish and bluegill. There is a fish cleaning station where anglers can prepare their catch for an evening meal around a campfire.
Bartlett Lake is a water recreation wonderland that includes water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, swimming and shoreline camping. Hiking among the desert flora is an added experience, and hikers frequently see native wildlife including mule deer, javelina, coyotes and the rare bald eagle. Jojoba Trail, a 1.3 mile hiking trail along the shores of the lake, stretches from the Rattlesnake Cove Recreation Site to the Jojoba Boating Site, along the lake's western shore. Rattlesnake Cove has restrooms, drinking water and extensive picnic facilities. Camping is allowed at Bartlett Lake, under the auspices of the Tonto National Forest. However, there are no designated campgrounds or hookups. In 2004, the Cave Creek Ranger District opened Bartlett Lake to long term visitor RV camping. Camping - for up to 6 months - is permitted in the paved parking areas between October 1 and March 31 each year.
Bartlett Lake's close proximity to the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas makes it an ideal location for residents and vacationers. The lake is open all year long. It is most crowded during the hot summer months as visitors swarm to the cool refreshing waters and tranquil nights under the brilliant stars. It is a good idea to arrive early, as rangers restrict the number of boats on the lake at any given time.
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