Saguaro Lake and Freestone Park, February, 2016

This post has some pictures and narrative from my trip to Saguaro Lake.

I left early in the morning on Tuesday, February 3. It was a cold morning – about 32 degrees – and heated up to the mid fifties by the end of the day.

I stopped at three different places. The first was about a 30 mile drive (40 minutes) to the Salt River Tubing Dropoff area below the Stewart Mountain Dam. Tubing on the Salt River is very popular here in the summer. When I first moved here in the early 80’s, we would take our tubes (and beer) and have somebody drop us off below the dam, then tube down the river, where we arranged for somebody to pick us up. A lot of people hitch-hiked up to the place to enter the river (those were the days). There are some areas with mild rapids, but mostly it’s just for cooling off and swimming in the summer. Over the years as the population in the Phoenix area grew, the crowds of tubers grew also. There were problems, of course, with traffic, and young people drinking too much, and getting injured jumping off of the many cliffs. There was also some nudity (whether or not that’s a problem depends on you 🙂 ). The national park service responded by adding facilities, making a lot of rules, renting tubes, and providing shuttle buses for moving the tubers from the point where they get out of the river to the point where they get in. They even blasted some of the cliffs with dynamite to prevent jumpers, but they just found new places to jump. It has turned into quite an operation.

This morning I was the only one there (it’s not open for tubing yet). The sun was still behind the cliffs shading the river. I was hoping to see the Bald Eagle reported there, but no luck.

My next stop was at the Saguaro Lake marina, which was about a 5 minute drive from the tubing drop-off area. I drove to the end of the picnic area and found a trail that wasn’t marked, but was a nice trail. There were a lot of water fowl in the lake. I finally got a picture of a Canyon Wren. I’ve heard them many times but never got a picture. This one was down by the water, and then up on the steep hill (aka cliff) that goes up from the lake. He was making his very distinctive and, I think, beautiful call. I got some shots while he was calling. If you’re interested in hearing the call, here’s a link:

My final stop was the Butcher Jones Recreation Area, another 10 minutes up the road. This is also very popular, and crowded, in the summer. There is a beach and swimming area. There is also a nice hiking trail along the lake. This morning there were only a few people there. There were a lot of water fowl.

It’s a gorgeous area with the river and lake and mountains and cliffs, and a good time to go, I think, because there were no crowds.

I included two other photos on this post from Freestone Park in Gilbert (I saw a Canvasback there and didn’t have a photo of one, so I took one).

If you’re interested, here’s a link to a map of the three spots:


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