5 things you might not know about Lake Pleasant

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Aerial View of Lake Pleasant

Whether you’ve been fishing, jet skiing, camping, hiking, or just enjoying a boat ride on Lake Pleasant, you probably know this reservoir in central Arizona as a spectacular recreation destination.

But did you know these 5 facts?

Home to the original Waddell dam

When construction of the New Waddell Dam was completed in 1992, the original Waddell Dam was left in place and sits approximately a half-mile north of the new dam.

Waddell Dam was completed in 1927 and at the time was the world’s largest concrete, multiple-arch dam. The structure was 76 feet tall, 250 feet long and had a crest length of 2,160 feet. The total storage capacity of the lake was 157,600 acre-feet.  Its purpose was to store waters of the Agua Fria River to irrigate desert land in the Maricopa Water District’s service area.

Today, the New Waddell Dam is in place and the max storage capacity has been expanded to 811,784 acre-feet.

CAP’s storage reservoir

Lake Pleasant serves two purposes. In addition to being a hub for water sports, CAP pumps water into Lake Pleasant for storage during low demand periods, like winter, and releases it to its approximately 60 municipal and industrial, agricultural, and tribal water users during the summer, when water demand is higher.

See the current water levels.

Source water: a river and a reversible canal

Inflows into Lake Pleasant come from two primary sources: the Agua Fria River, and Colorado River water via CAP’s “reversible” Waddell Canal.

The Waddell Canal connects the main CAP aqueduct with Lake Pleasant. It is CAP’s only reversible canal, carrying water into Lake Pleasant from mid-October through May and back to the main aqueduct during summer months when demand is high.

A Pleasant place and name

The reservoir was named after Carl Pleasant, the engineer who designed the original dam in 1916.

An oasis in the “Desert Outdoor Center”

The Desert Outdoor Center, operated by Maricopa County and located on the eastern side of Lake Pleasant, is an ideal setting for environmental education field trips, including classrooms, a science lab, open-air amphitheater and more than 30 ranger-led programs ranging from natural history to desert survival to alternative energy. The 26,000-square foot facility also provides a beautiful backdrop for weddings, retreats, and other group functions.  Note that the center is available by reservation only.

There also is an interpretative trail that includes information about the New Waddell Dam and CAP operations, although it is also only open upon reservation for special events.

As of May 19, 2022, the center was open.  Be sure to check the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation website or call (602) 372-7470 to verify the center is open.

So, now you know 5 new things about CAP’s storage reservoir, Lake Pleasant.

Not only it is a diverse area for outdoors opportunities, but Lake Pleasant also provides flexibility for CAP to balance Colorado River water supply diversions and water user deliveries.

A Pleasant place, indeed.