Roosevelt Lake Wildlife Area
|Description: Once the largest man-made lake in the world, Roosevelt Lake is still the largest lake entirely in Arizona. The Theodore Roosevelt Dam is 280 feet high and 723 feet long. The dam was finished in 1911 and its height increased in 1995. Roosevelt Lake is 23 miles long, with 128 miles of shoreline and a surface area of about 21,000 acres (water levels fluctuate and so does size accordingly). Two major drainages feed into the lake, Salt River and Tonto Creek.
Roosevelt Lake Wildlife Area encompasses much of the west end of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The wildlife area extends from the northwest portion of the lake southward to where Tonto Creek enters to Cottonwood Creek on the southwest portion of the lake. Due to its size, the habitat in the wildlife area is quite diverse and consists of lush upper Sonoran Desert, marsh, open water and, depending on flows, inundated vegetation.
As a result of the diversity of habitat types, a visitor can expect to see a wide array of wildlife during all seasons. In addition, this end of the lake is surrounded by Four Peaks, Superstition, Mazatzal, and Sierra Ancha Mountain Ranges, making it a picturesque place to view wildlife. A visitor can expect sweltering summer temperatures to regularly exceed 100 degrees F while winter temperatures may drop below freezing.
Wildlife to Watch: Roosevelt Lake and the Wildlife Area are the winter home for a flock of Canada geese, one of the largest groups to winter in Arizona. Hundreds of wild geese can sometimes be seen in the Bermuda Flat area, where they graze on grass and forbs. In the spring, they begin their long migration back to their nesting grounds in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and as far away as Alberta, Canada. The water also attracts snow geese and a great variety of other waterfowl and grebes during migration and winter. Large numbers of western grebes and fewer numbers of Clark’s grebes have recently become permanent residents on the lake.
Herons, cormorants, willow flycatchers, bald eagles, and ospreys are just a few of the numerous species that live and nest in the Wildlife Area. A well-developed cottonwood willow riparian forest borders Tonto Creek just before it enters the lake near the A cross road. Look in this area for yellow-billed cuckoo, hooded oriole, summer tanager, and other highly sought-after riparian species.
Deer, black bear, javelina, coatimundi, coyote, gray fox, bobcat, mountain lion, ringtail, and numerous varieties of ground squirrels, snakes, and lizards inhabit the area. Near the wetlands visitors may encounter a variety of amphibians and reptiles, including common kingsnake, black-necked gartersnake, Sonoran mud turtle, Woodhouse’s toad, desert spiny and ornate tree lizards. The uplands are home to diamond-backed rattlesnake, eastern collared, common side-blotched, and greater earless lizards.
Other Activities: There are several trailheads leading up the surrounding mountain ranges. Information about various trails is available on the Tonto National Forest web page www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto under recreational opportunities-trails.
Ownership: U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Size: 286 acres
Closest Town: Tonto Basin
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: