One of the many questions that I get asked every year is “Where can I go lake swimming or boating?”
Well, Alamo Lake State Park was one of the many hidden gems I have found.
Located 2 hours northwest of Surprise, Alamo Lake State Park is located about 30 miles north of Wenden, or about 1 hour northwest of Wickenburg.
We visited Alamo Lake State Park on a Monday in the middle of June, so it was pretty empty. However, the winters are extremely busy, so be prepared! The Lake was also pretty low as we haven’t had much significant rain.
From Surprise, you will go west on AZ 60 for about one hour and forty five minutes. Then, you will take a right turn onto Alamo Rd and go about 30 miles. That’s it. Two turns!
What to expect from your drive: Most of AZ60 is four lanes until about 6 miles outside of Wickenburg where it narrows to two lanes. Most travelers will be driving 65 miles and hour. There is quite a bit of desert landscape you will see and not much else for services. Fuel up before leaving Surprise or Wickenburg. Wickenburg has many restaurants (dine in and fast food) as well as a cultural center, Desert Cabelleros Western Museum. Outside of Wickenburg, services become very limited. You will pass through Aguila (which has a gas station and a library), and then about 20 miles later you will reach Wenden which has a small store/laundromat and limited services.
Alamo Rd is very narrow in some spots and has a lot of agriculture at the first 5-8 miles of the drive. After you pass through the agricultural areas, there will be a paved road (follow this) and dirt roads that branch off of the main road. Passing cow/animal grates and seeing signs for wildlife will remind you to keep a look out for animals crossing the road. Also, there are warning signs for flash floods, so be mindful of the clouds and weather! Since we went on our road trip during monsoon season, I kept an eye on the weather and the skies. Luckily, the sky was a perfect blue and we had no reason to be alarmed. Wickenburg and northwest seems to have more rain that Surprise usually has every year, so different weather patterns are very important to realize before you start your trek.
Also, cell signal was choppy. I relied on our Garmin GPS to get me there, although it wasn’t too necessary given it was two turns!
The final approach to Alamo Lake State Park brought us to a few travelers crossing the road. At first, I thought it was a ranger riding a horse.
Instead, it was one of 300 + wild burros that are native to the area! They are not friendly to petting, but they are pretty ok with traffic laws. Sort of. And if you don’t notice the burros, you may see a few things they leave behind.
You can use your imagination on that, but watch where you step!
My children decided to tell me which burro was the mom and dad. Unfortunately they were wrong, but we will teach them that biology lesson a little later!
We stopped at the Ranger station to check in to the park. We were the only ones there. Other than the rangers and the burros, that is! The Ranger was super nice and gave my kids Jr. Ranger packs, that had information about the state parks, a pin, a coloring book and stickers. Perfect reading material for the ride home!
The Camp store is pretty much the last place that you can get anything that you may need. Plus they have ice cream and soda. And a flush toilet that I was lucky enough to use!
We proceeded on to look at the cabins and camping spaces.
And each of the cabins had super cute names, like this one. Burro Bungalo. HAHA! I laughed for a few good minutes. And, be careful of burro..well, you know
Since we were the only ones in the park, we traveled around and took a look at the campsites. There are more traditional campsites for tents, and places for RVS. Check out the rules on the Arizona Parks Page for information, rental fees and more.
Many of the restrooms were what I learned to be “Latrines”. Holes in the ground with a toilet seat base. Even at pretty high temps, it wasn’t too smelly. However, I highly suggest not bringing your valuables when you use the bathroom! There are also “port a potties” or as the rangers call it “Chemical toilets” located around the park. There are also shower stations and fish washing station!
Yes, there are fish in this lake: Largemouth Bass, crappie, red earned sun fish, channel catfish, tilapia and blue gill. You must have a valid fishing license for those older than 10 years old.
Since we were the “lone ranger visitors” (ha ha) at the park, we were able to park right at one of the boat ramps. There are three docks. We checked out the high water boat ramp and the main boat ramp. The water was very low, so we parked at the top of the main boat ramp and walked into the water.
If you fare from the north like I do, sometimes lakes can be sandy. This one is not sandy at all. It is pretty rock, so you will want to have watershoes. My kids were so excited they didn’t care about their feet hurting!
(This is the High water Boat Ramp). If the water is high, this is the ramp you would use.
My kids went in fully clothed. The water was pretty clear and was a great temperature. Not too hot or cold, so I let them wade up to their bellies. I didn’t have them change into swim wear, because really, it is half the fun of being at a lake! We brought a change of clothes and plenty of sunscreen. There is no shade. I did wish I had an umbrella, but we had fun anyhow. We saw some little bitty fish in the water, and my kids decided to take a stick and try to “fish hunt”. They also tried skipping rocks, but it became more of throwing rocks.
When the kids weren’t shouting and laughing hilariously, you could hear the burros making their noises, birds clacking away and we even saw a blue heron. We didn’t see any mule deer, foxes or coyotes, but I’m pretty sure I saw a huge rabbit! We saw a few fish that must have been jumping and a lot of dragon flies. Very little mosquitoes or regular flies were around!
You can see the kids just had an amazing time handing out in the water! I had fun too!
We then headed up to the dam area. The dam is truly interesting to me because-do we really get that much rain in the desert that we need a dam?
Yes, actually! The Alamo Lake has known to get enough water at one time to go up 11 vertical feet! And, to make sure that the rain water doesn’t flood the surrounding area (Bill Williams River which also is where the Big Sandy River and Santa Maria River come together.). The Dam was created in 1968, and was also made for recreational purposes as well.
If you look at this map in terrain format you can see that the lake is at 1200′ above sea level, and the other side of the dam, which we cannot see in this picture, is 1000 feet.
If you are wondering how a dam works, here is a short video. This isn’t a hydroelectric dam, but it does help explain a little bit about how it works.
The Roadway we drove up to get to the dam is very steep and narrow in some places. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend an RV driving up it. I probably wouldn’t recommend my husband driving up it either as he is afraid of steep, narrow drives. But, it’s worth the scenery!
There is also a stair case that will bring you up to this viewpoint, but of course, we went up the hard way. Know that is is very steep walk up, and a steep drop over the edge, so little ones walking on their own is not advised.
There is also a bathroom at the top of this hill, and it is a ‘latrine type”. The men’s bathroom opens very closely to the edge, so I had everyone come in with me! As a mom of little ones, steep drops still are a bit wary for me and the kiddos.
A beautiful view of the lake from the top.
A view down to the road that leads to the dam! And, we found the walkway up!
If you are looking for the perfect park for fishing, swimming and boating-you have to check out Alamo Lake State Park. With it being only 2 hours away from the Surprise Area, it is easily accessed and is a hidden gem. Plus, you get to see all the amazing wildlife too! If you stay overnight, you can check out all of the amazing stars! Since it is so dark with no city lights near Alamo Lake State Park, star viewing is amazing!
Alamo Dam Road, Wenden, AZ