Apache Lake (Maricopa Co.)

Tips for Birding

The best birding approach to birding Apache Lake would be to rent a boat and search the long and narrow lake.  A good amount of birds may still be observed from the various recreation spots that lead to the lake, but a boat is the only way to accurately search this lake.  Bring a scope to scan the water.  Bird the surrounding desert and the big mesquite bosque which makes up Burnt Corral Campground. 

About this Location

Apache Lake is the second reservoir on the Apache Trail that is created by the Salt River.  This is a very long and narrow lake and runs for over ten miles.  It is a beautiful lake and is surrounded by the scenery of canyons, cliffs, and desert hills.  Besides several access points to view this lake that are productive, most of this lake is very hard to cover due to its length.  The access points that are available however give good birding opportunities.  One access point is the main turnoff to Apache Lake, which features a marina and even a nice resort.  Good views are given of the lake here.

Several groves of trees are planted throughout the resort and marina area, which may bring in some interesting migrants or wintering birds.  Another good place to view Apache Lake comes from the Burnt Corral Recreation Area at the northeast side of the lake.  This recreation area features a campground under a nice mesquite bosque, which will provide good birding other than the views of the lake.

The first turnoff to Apache Lake comes between mile markers 229 and 230, which is shortly past Fish Creek.  This turnoff leads to the main recreation area of the lake, where the marina, resort, and boat rentals are located.  There are several turnoffs to the lake other than the ones mentioned on this text.  Another good turnoff comes at the eastern section of the lake at mile marker 234.  This road goes to the Burnt Corral Recreation Area and campground, which is a very peaceful branch of the lake.

About Apache Lake

See all hotspots at Apache Lake

Apache Lake is in the Tonto National Forest.

Apache Lake was formed in 1927 when the Horse Mesa Dam was completed. Outstanding trout and warm-water fishing. Wet winters bring a profusion of spring flowers. This lake is set among sun-painted canyon walls, which form scenic backdrops to the lake itself. Camping is available at Burnt Corral Recreation Site, Apache Lake Marina/Resort, or at several shoreline access areas.

The entire route is paved with the exception of the five-mile section of AZ-88. From Mesa: Take the Beeline Highway/AZ-87 north for approximately 60 miles to the junction of AZ-188. Turn right and follow AZ-188 for 33 miles to the junction with AZ-88. Turn right on AZ-88 and drive past Roosevelt Dam. Follow AZ-88 for 5 miles to Forest Road (FR) 183; turn right and continue an additional mile to the site.

From Claypool (between Globe & Miami: Take AZ-188 northwest for 29 miles to the junction of AZ-88. Follow AZ-88 (it heads southwest and becomes an unpaved road) for 5 miles to FR 183; turn right and continue an additional mile to the site.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Apache Lake Official Website and Birder From Maricopa

Last updated October 1, 2023