Are you looking for a great day trip from Phoenix, Arizona? Try Bartlett Lake (also known as Bartlett Reservoir). Bartlett lake is located just under 60 miles from metro-Phoenix. To get to the lake just travel north on I-17 to exit 223, go east on the Carefree Highway approximately 10 miles to Cave Creek Road. Take a left and turn north on to Cave Creek and continue about 7 miles as the roads loops to the east into the desert. Bear to the right on Bartlett Dam Road and travel another 13 miles to the lake. Directions to the Bartlett Lake Marina.
Where does the Verde River flow, to Bartlett Lake. The lake at about 1,600 feet of elevation above sea level has almost 3,000 surface acres of water and size-wise is larger than Saguaro Lake and Canyon Lake combined. The lake was created in 1939 with the construction of Bartlett Dam. The lake and surrounding area offer awesome view of the Sonoran Desert.
Plan your trip carefully as the closest town with gasoline and other necessities is Carefree.
In order to enjoy the lake, you’ll need to purchase a Tonto Pass. This pass (tax) is required for many recreation areas in the Tonto National Forest. The pass is $6 per vehicle plus another $4 per watercraft. The fee is per day. You can find the Tonto Pass at many metro area retailers and also at the Cave Creek Ranger Station which is located about a quarter mile from the junction of Cave Creek Road and the Bartlett Dam Road.
The Bartlett marina has options for both wet and dry boat storage. Whether you’re a sailor or power boater, with over 400 moorings, they have a mooring for you.
There are 200 storage option on the water at the lake which are gated and locked, only accessible to members with card access. The marina can accommodate boats up to 55 feet and have a variety of options in the slips including: electrical, lockable dock box, dump out at slips, water and deck choices.
Bartlett Lake Marina has 200 storage options on water all with gated docks with “Members Only” gate card access. We are able to accommodate boats of all types and sizes with covered and uncovered slips, up to 55 feet. They give customers the ability to ‘customize’ their slip.
There are another 200 dry boat storage options as well including open and covered storage. This area is also protected by gate access cards.
Bartlett Lake Fishing
There are many fish species inhabiting Bartlett lake including: bluegill, crappie, large-mouth bass, a number of variations of catfish, sunfish and carp. You will also find crayfish, and bullfrogs. The lake is home to some trophy fish as witnessed by the landing of a 76.52 lb Flathead catfish and a 7 pound small bass in 1977. See the video here.
Arizona Fish and Game publishes a fishing report for Bartlett Lake and other lakes in the state. It’s a great resource to determine which species are active and what method and bait is most effective.
The best way to fish the lake is in a watercraft. With the fluctuating levels of the lake, it’s difficult to predict where to fish from the shoreline. The Forest Service manages a boat launch at the Jojoba Boating Site which has parking for trailers and vehicles. Additional boat launch facilities are available at the Bartlett Lake marina.
A valid Arizona fishing license (tax) is required to fish at the lake. Licenses are available from the Arizona Fish and Game Department. They’ve made it easier to obtain a license by purchasing one through their website. Buy an Arizona fishing license.
Some things you need to know about Bartlett Lake/Reservoir:
Be prepared for delays in launching your boat or watercraft during the very busy summer months. Tune into your local radio stations for conditions on the lake and the wait times to launch. The north end of Bartlett Lake is closed to water skiing. Be aware of the water buoys and follow all posted directions. There are a number of non-motorized areas like Rattlesnake cove. The lake regulates noise and any motors that have noise levels above 82 decibels are prohibited.
Please review lake prohibitions and guidelines prior to boating.
Hiking around the lake
If you’re up for a short hike around the lake, try the Jojoba Trail. The trail is 1.3 miles and runs from Rattlesnake Cove to the Jojoba boating site. Begin the hike at either end. You might want to start at the Rattlesnake trail head as there are restrooms, picnic facilities and drinking water is available. Its a scenic hike along desert terrain with awesome views of the lake and the Matazal Mountains to the east.
To get to the trail head, from the lake take forest road 459 to the Rattlesnake Cove turnoff and continue for approximately 1/2 mile to the parking area.
Bartlett Lake campgrounds
There are a number of camping areas at or near the lake. Try Yellow Cliffs which offers lakeside camping and access to boating and other activities. The number of available campsites varies with the water level of the lake. Make sure to arrive on popular weekends in order to get the camp sites closest to or adjacent to the water.
he Bartlett Reservoir area is noted for the spectacular vistas of the Desert Mountains and the Sonoran plant life. A fair portion of the west side of the reservoir is devoted to camping and picnicking. Bartlett has been a favorite with anglers since Bartlett Dam was constructed in 1939. Several state-record fish have been caught there. The 1977 Small-mouth Bass state record tipped the scales at seven pounds. The carp state record still stands at 37 lbs. 5 oz. Flathead Catfish lurk in the depths. “Fish City” near Bartlett Flat is a fish-habitat improvement project.
For more info:
20808 E Bartlett Dam Rd
Tonto National Forest
Rio Verde, AZ 85263