Trip Report: Canyon Lake in Phoenix, Arizona

January 06, 2023

Behind the scenes photos and trip report from Dan and Seth's paddling trip in Canyon Lake, Arizona.
Trip Report: Canyon Lake in Phoenix, Arizona
Edited by: K.M. Collins

Located in the heart of the superstition mountains, the drive to Canyon Lake is just as dramatic as the paddling itself. Jagged desert peaks surround you and the lake provides 28 miles of shoreline within  Tonto National Forest, just an hour's drive outside Phoenix.  Check out what has to say about Canyon Lake

 Dan Arbuckle holding a Sandpiper 130 upright next to a large cactus.

Eddyline blog correspondents, kayaking legends at large, and paddle sports media moguls, Dan Arbuckle and Seth West of  Headwaters Kayak, recently took a trip to the South and visited Canyon Lake in Phoenix, Arizona for a media shoot and tour. This is what they reported back…

Seth pulling a Caribbean 12FS up onto shore.

Arbuckle shares,Canyon Lake is one of the most unusual landscapes I’ve ever paddled in. I’ve done desert paddling before at Lake Powell, Watson Lake and the Green River, but Canyon Lake was different. It was one of the hottest and harshest landscapes I’ve ever visited. The temperature the day we paddled was above 115 degrees. 

Dan sweating in the hot Arizona sun.

“Towering Saguaro cactus and massive 500’ cliff faces provided the only shade you’d find. Agave, barrel cactus and other succulents cling to the walls above as you paddle up the canyon. 

 Paddling in Canyon Lake.

“Relief came from the amazingly cool and refreshing water, and the multitude of amazing cliff jumping spots and swimming holes. A true oasis in an otherwise forbidden landscape. 

 Seth floating in the water, Canyon Lake. Dan resting his feet on the bow of his Sandpiper 130.

“The occasional wakeboard boat would pass us providing great entertainment and a free ride on their wakes, if you could catch the surf. The whole adventure was spectacular. I showed up to the Phoenix area skeptical of what we’d find to paddle, and we left in total awe. It’s a place every flat-water paddler needs to add to their bucket list.” 

Rio and Sandpiper 130 on the shores of Canyon Lake.

Arbuckle noted the Sandpiper and Rio as his top pick Eddyline boats for this paddle excursion. 


Thanks to  Riverbound Sports (based out of Tempe) for guiding the trip. They are one of very few outfitters who hold a permit in the Canyon Lake region, so reach out to them if you're interested in paddling in that area. To get a sense of the Sonoran Desert, Tonto National Forest, meet the owner of Riverbound Sports Paddle Co., and see Dan Arbuckle of  Headwater Kayak exploring Canyon Lake, check out  Kayaking in the Sonoran Desert!?