10 best water sports venues in the West

Posted at 4:55 AM, Jun 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 07:55:35-04

For summertime desert-dwellers, little is more appealing than the idea of a cool water escape. Fortunately, sun-soaked Arizonans don't need to go far to find relief. There are many lakes and rivers where westerners can beat the heat and enjoy a variety of water sports, such as windsurfing, tubing, fishing, and boating.

As temps rise, here is a guide to some of the hottest spots to cool down in the West:


Lake Powell
Located near Page and formed by Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell is 186 miles long with 1,960 miles of shoreline surrounding deep canyons and rocky outcrops. A reservoir for Colorado River waters, it’s a haven for swimming, waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking.Houseboating also attracts crowds, with Wahweap and Antelope Point marinas as launch points for day- or week-long cruising.

Salt River
The largest river in the Phoenix area with an average water temperature of 68 degrees, the Salt is a magnet for tubers. Depending on the launch point (there are four) and the water flow, it takes about two to six hours to float down this generally slow-moving waterway, despite a few fast-moving patches near the rapids.

Lake Havasu
This deep, 45-mile long lake in the western reaches of the state is where Central Arizona Project begins to pull its Colorado River allotment. Anglers can explore coves and inlets to find perfect spots to drop their fishing lines and await the tug of striped bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout. But do allow some time to gawk at the famous London Bridge, which connects to an island in the lake.

Colorado River
Rafting down the river — whether you prefer smooth water or wicked white rapids — is a memorable experience that gives a unique bottom-to-top perspective on the massive Grand Canyon. Be smart and reserve space on a river trip, which range from one day to two weeks or longer.



Stagecoach State Park Reservoir
The crown jewel of a sagebrush-fragrant state park in the Yampa Valley south of Steamboat Springs, this 820-acre reservoir is renowned for fishing (especially for rainbow trout and northern pike) and is divided into wakeless (low speed) and non-wakeless (faster speed) areas.
Yampa River
The 270-mile Yampa – the last major free-flowing river in the Colorado River basin – flows from the Rockies through downtown Steamboat Springs and provides two great swim or surf spots: the C-hole (near the library) and the D-hole (farther downstream). Stand-up paddleboarding is big here given the four continuous miles of whitewater.


Elephant Butte Reservoir
North of Truth or Consequences, this venue is known as the state’s premier water sports destination – 40 miles long with 200 miles of shoreline. All types of watercraft are permitted on Elephant Butte, and there is a nearby sports clinic. Considered by Frommers to be one of the top 10 bass-fishing locales in the country. 


Scotts Flat Lake
Near Nevada City (the West’s whitewater hub), this forested mountain lake permits most types of boating (except jet and waterskiing) and is ideal for paddleboarding. Powerboats occasionally disrupt the tranquility of beaches, coves, and evergreens, but the fish are plentiful, especially rainbow and brown trout, which are stocked in spring and summer.

Englebright Lake
Twenty miles west of Nevada City, Englebright was formed along the Yuba River by Englebright Dam. It’s recognized for its boating and fishing, and also is lauded for its unique “boat-in-camping only” provision – boaters tie up for the night and camp using only their packed-in equipment.
Pacific Coast
Listen up surfers: Meccas for this sport are San Diego, La Jolla, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Malibu. Kayakers, scuba divers, speed boaters, and jet skiers also are welcome. More placid sorts can stick to outrigger canoeing, swimming, and fishing. 

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