Origin of Lake Pleasant

We love visiting Lake Pleasant to enjoy the boating, fishing and camping opportunities available in this breathtakingly beautiful area. But did you know that the lake is an important source of water to thousands of showers, hoses and faucets in the surrounding area? We couldn’t help but wonder about the history of the lake and the early inhabitants of the area. After a little digging, here’s what we found.

From A.D. 700 to A.D. 1450, the area was inhabited by Hohokam peoples. An archeological study of the Lake Pleasant area discovered five locations: defensive site, a stone workshop, a farmhouse and two small villages.

The ruins of Indian Mesa near Lake Pleasant are among the best-preserved pieces left behind by this Indian community. The Hohokam culture didn’t vanish overnight, but it is believed that after several generations of what remained of the culture was passed on to descendants, the Pima and Tohono O’odham peoples.

Fast forward to the 1860s and 1870s, when Mollie Monroe, an eccentric female prospector, was a co-discoverer of nearby Castle Hot Springs, along with her common-law husband George Monroe and others. Another explorer, Jacob Snively, prospected the area at about the same time. Snively was killed by an Apache chieftain in 1871 near the White Picacho, a prominent landmark about 18 miles northwest of Lake Pleasant Park.

During the 1890s, miners and ranchers filled the Lake Pleasant region. Although the area seemed to have mineral possibilities, a search of mining claims and claimants at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office reveals only a few mining locations filed within the park boundaries.

In 1927, the Carl Pleasant Dam was built, creating Lake Pleasant. The lake was filled by the Agua Fria River, and was about a quarter of the size it is today. In 1935, the dam underwent a retrofit and in 1964 was renamed the Waddell Dam.

In 1973, Central Arizona Project built an aqueduct to divert Colorado River water to the lake and converted Lake Pleasant into a reservoir.

Around 1992, construction of the New Waddell Dam began, with the initial fill of the larger reservoir finished by 1994. This quadrupled the surface area of the lake and submerged the old dam beneath its waters. While the Agua Fria River still feeds the 15-square-mile reservoir, the CAP aqueduct is its primary water source. Central Arizona Project stores water in the reservoir during low-demand periods, such as winter, and releases it to its 80 municipal and tribal customers during the summer, when demand is high.

Local residents and visitors to Lake Pleasant and Scorpion Bay today use the lake as a water-sports recreation center. They enjoy Scorpion Bay as a floating playground, which offers daily pontoon and ski-boat rentals and slips for harboring yachts. But the lake continues to do double duty by serving as an important storage reservoir for this rapidly growing region.


Scorpion Bay is Arizona’s premier floating playground, offering everything from daily pontoon and ski boat rentals to slips for harboring your yacht (or dinghy). Come for the fishing or come for the frolicking—either way, incredible mountain views, fantastic dining and world-class marina services await less than an hour out of Phoenix.