Water was one of the most important reasons that the Tonto National Forest was established: watershed protection. Since then, the Salt and Verde rivers have had six dams constructed. While the dammed water is of great value for irrigating fields and for domestic use, it is also very popular with thousands of people who recreate in its waters every year.
Water recreation ranges from the simple to the sophisticated. Some activities require highly mechanized equipment, while other popular activities only require a swimming suit. Whatever your preferences, the Tonto National Forest has plenty to offer when it comes to water recreation.
There are also commercial partners who provide a variety of water-based recreation opportunities.
At a Glance
All traffic pattern on the Tonto National Forest Reservoirs is counter-clockwise (your shoulder should be near the closest shore). Sailboats, canoes, and rowboats have the right-of-way over motorized boats. Many coves are “No Wake” areas, please recognize and obey all buoys. Motorized boats are NOT ALLOWED on the flowing portions of the rivers. Watch for rapids, submerged rocks and ‘strainers’ in the flowing portions of the rivers. NO GLASS containers are allowed on any Tonto National Forest reservoirs. Powerboat races are not allowed on any of the Tonto National Forest Reservoirs. Parasailing is allowed ONLY at Roosevelt Lake (some restrictions). Be weather wise: choppy waters can suddenly appear, as can lightning. Following thunderstorms in the summer and snowmelt runoff in the spring, a considerable rise in water levels can occur. Alcohol and boats are a deadly combination, DUI laws apply to waterways as well as to roads.
Areas for Mountain Biking at Tonto Basin Ranger District