Arizona Lake Cruise
Fall Is The Perfect Time For A Lake Cruise
October 1, 2019
We recently took a tour on Dolly Steamboat at Canyon Lake and it was great – in fact, it was even better than I expected. We met our best friends Ron and Debbie at the lake, and we brought our two college-aged granddaughters with us. The tour we chose was a special one: the Bighorn Sheep Tour. There were a bunch of Arizona Game and Fish experts on board with us, as well as several guys from the Arizona Bighorn Sheep Society. It was an amazing day.
Over 50 Sheep!
John and I have fished at Canyon many, many times, and we've often spotted bighorn sheep there, but the Bighorn Society guys put us to shame – between them and the Game and Fish people, they spotted over fifty sheep that day! Incredible. We had just barely gotten away from the dock when they spotted the first ones.
The fun actually started at the ticket line. We had bought our tickets online, and just needed to show up at the window. I had our electronic tickets on my phone, but they already had our names on the list so we were good to go. But, while we were in line some fellas from the Bighorn Sheep Society were already handing out goodies – lanyards and things like that – to anyone who wanted them.
Oh, by the way, you don't need to pay for a Tonto Pass if you are boarding Dolly. There is a separate parking lot, and there are also a restaurant and restrooms there.
Better And Better
I had seen the Dolly many times, but I had never been on board before. There is plenty of room inside, and we took a table upstairs. Each table is by the window, and there was plenty of room at the table for the six of us. Dolly is even air-conditioned, so we were very comfortable. To top it off, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society was running a tab at the concession on board, so we were able to get free sodas and snacks during the whole trip. It just kept getting better and better.
Since this was a special cruise, the captain would stop Dolly and even circle around or point the bow at the shore so that everyone on board could get a good view of the bighorns. As I said, we saw over fifty of the bighorns on this cruise, but that isn't all we saw. We saw a lot of different birds, including a bald eagle.
For me, the highlight was seeing three of the little desert whitetail deer – Coues deer. They walked down to the edge of the lake to get a drink, and one of them got right in and began to swim back and forth along the shore. That's something I've never seen before and it was great.
If You Want To Get Photos
To get the most out of your tour, I'd advise getting information on special cruises like the one we were on, especially if photographing wildlife is your main goal. Also, the windows on Dolly will distort your photos, especially the color. There are two outside areas, one on each level, but they can get crowded. I ended up taking many pictures from the stairs.
The windows do open, and in the fall that won't be a problem, but when we went in the summer nobody wanted to open a window at all. So keep that in mind if you want to take some photos.
In addition to seeing all the wildlife, I learned a lot about Canyon Lake from the Captain's commentary as we cruised along. He showed us some rocks that looked like people and had names, told us a lot about the geology and the history of the lake, and kept us entertained the whole time. Even our granddaughters didn't get bored. I highly recommend the Dolly cruises.
Dolly has all kinds of special cruises including an Astronomy Dinner Cruise, Scenic Nature Cruise, and a Twilight Dinner Cruise. We paid $35 each for adults, and children 5-12 were $23, while little ones 1-4 were $6. Infants under 1 are free.
I'm sure the other cruises are similarly priced. You can book online at http://www.dollysteamboat.com or call them at 480-827-9144. To get directions, just put their address in your map app: 16802 AZ-88, Tortilla Flat, AZ 85117, or just type in "Canyon Lake". You need to check in a half hour before your cruise.
Canyon isn't the only lake with cruises. Lake Pleasant also offers dinner cruises on Phoenix, including Thanksgiving dinner. Prices are $55-$65 for adults depending on which meal you choose, while kids 5-12 are $35-45. Kids 0-4 are free. The prices include taxes and the caterer gratuity, but not beverages and boat-crew gratuities.
The cruises are two hours long and the meals are buffet-style by Dillon's Catering. There is live music and a full-service bar also. There is a vegetarian option for dinner, but no vegan one, so if you are vegan you might want to call to make your reservation and ask about that.
Reservations are "strongly recommended" and you can book online at http://www.lakepleasantcruises.com. Plan to get there 45 minutes before departure, and you'll need to pay $6 per car to park at Pleasant Harbor. Pleasant Harbor is the first turn-off to Pleasant that you will reach if you are coming in from I-17.
Saguaro Lake offers cruises on Desert Belle daily. From the photos and videos online, it looks like the main level is enclosed and the upper level is open air, which would make it great for photos. There is a snack bar with beer, wine, and drinks, as well as popcorn, ice cream, candy, cookies, and chips. Prices are listed online. They have a Narration Cruise, Wine Cruise, Live Music Cruise, and a Lake and Land Combo Tour.
Lake And Land Combos
The Lake and Land Combo sounds fun – they pick you up at your hotel or home in a Hummer and drive you around the desert while regaling you with tales of history and legends, then take you for a 90-minute cruise on Desert Belle. All of those are booked through Steller Adventures at 602-402-0584. This would be such an awesome gift for someone!
The Lake and Land Combos offer varieties of tours: Classic Tours with ATV's, UTV's, Hummers and Blazers; Specialty Tours with unique ways of exploring the desert; Sunset and Star Gazing; and Hiking and Biking. You can find all the prices online, and just for example, the Blazer Tour starts at $125 per person. Sounds like so much fun!
Enjoy Gorgeous Arizona
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the cruises on Arizona Lakes. Go online and search by lake. I am so glad we took the Dolly cruise – I'm an Arizona native and sometimes that means that tourists have more adventures that we do. Don't let that happen to you – book a lake cruise this fall and enjoy our gorgeous Arizona weather and scenery.