Monday, September 20, 2021

Lynx Lake Hiking and Paddling


Lynx Lake from the Northshore overlook. The Bradshaw Mountains are in the background.

I scouted out Lynx Lake a few years ago, shortly after I moved to Arizona. It's a small reservoir in the Bradshaw Mountains just outside Prescott, Arizona. The Bradshaws are the centerpiece of the Central Highlands of Arizona, an area of high mountains and valleys roughly in the middle of the state. The area is rich in history and features beautiful landscapes and a moderate climate.

Prescott was an early capital of Arizona and calls itself the "Mile High City," just like Denver, Colorado. Although the urban zoning in the area leaves something to be desired, the terrain is amazing. I enjoy Prescott and considered moving there when I was planning to head west almost a decade ago, but there were no jobs for my skillset. I can still enjoy it from Flagstaff because it is only about a 90 minute drive from my house. Now that I work from home full time, I suppose I could move there, but I don't think I want to be farther from the Grand Canyon.

The lake is located within Prescott National Forest and is over 6,000 feet above sea level. The surrounding peaks tower over 7000 feet and the slopes are covered with a combination of Ponderosa pine forest and ecotones (transition ecology) with some desert species. Even though it is near Flagstaff, somehow the forest has a slightly different look and feel, and I like it. I decided I wanted to paddle the lake in one of my kayaks several years ago but kept putting it off until last Sunday.

Glassy water in a cove on the south end of the lake. I saw plenty of waterfowl and schools of minnows swam beneath.

I ran late but still managed to arrive at the lake by 10 am. I floundered around and didn't find the boat ramp immediately but fortunately still beat most of the crowd and was able to get a parking spot at the South Shore access point. It is a fee area but the host accepted my America the Beautiful interagency pass (an annual pass for federal lands). I took my time and headed out onto an almost glassy lake. There were a lot of people fishing so I kept my distance to avoid user conflicts. There were fish jumping, riparian areas in every inlet, and waterfowl and birds of prey cruising over the lake.

The view northwards towards the dam and Prescott.

Most of the time I live in a neutral mood. I've been accused of being an unhappy person, and it is true I'm not persistently happy but I experience brief periods of joy, usually when I'm outdoors exploring, and this was such a morning. I felt exuberant!

A view of the Bradshaws from amidst the aquatic plants. You can see the waves kicked up as the day got windy.

I could feel I was out of shape for paddling, but still enjoyed the relatively easy circuit around the 53 acre lake and found myself wanting to continue exploring. I decided to hike the loop around the lake.

Found the lakeshore trail after a misfire. You can see some of the dense undergrowth in one of the tributary ravines, unusual for Arizona.

I made a navigational error at the beginning and took a dead-end trail up to the campground, but eventually found the Lake Shore Trail and hiked it in the clockwise direction. The first mile was crowded but eventually I crossed the dam and got onto the more wild eastern (river-right) shore. I enjoyed the transition from pine forest to chaparral in sunny, rocky areas. The views of the Bradshaws are better from that side of the lake. I saw a couple of turtles and a lizard.

Much of the trail is paved on the west side, but the eastern side is single track.

The view along the spillway. You can see there is quite a drop on the other side. I assume the lake must be quite deep in front of the dam.

Excellent views all along the trail!

Turtle. There were two but the smaller one fled.

I can't identify the species of this lizard.

A little feel of the desert on the eastern side of the lake.

The view upstream in the dry stream bed of Lynx Creek. People pan for gold in the creek.

The lake is gorgeous and the hike is easy and scenic. It was busy on the weekend so a weekday would be better. I recommend visiting if you are in the Prescott area.

The paddle:

The hike:

The hike:

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