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Salt River, Canyon Lake, and Four Peaks at Sunset | by Wander West Adventures
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Salt River, Canyon Lake, and Four Peaks at Sunset

HDR Composite 3 images +/- 2EV Taken from the shore of Canyon Lake just downstream from the Mormon Flat Dam. The "V" shaped canyon at back-left is the Salt River canyon flowing down from Horse Mesa Dam and the Four Peaks Area near Roosevelt Dam.

 

If you're ever in the Phoenix area, you will regret not taking a drive on the historic Arizona Route 88, better known as the Apache Trail.

 

The Apache Trail started as just that--the centuries-old footpath that the Apache used to navigate through the Superstition Mountains, a range widely considered to be the most rugged terrain in the US, if not the world. The Apache both respected and feared these mountains, and believed that they contained the entrance to the underworld.

 

In the early 20th century, a burgeoning population in the city of Phoenix and other surrounding communities caused great concern over municipal and agricultural water supply. The Salt River runs through these rugged canyons, and was deemed a perfect place to store water. In 1911, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was created 40 miles north of Apache Junction. The Apache Trail was improved and was used extensively by trucks hauling supplies to the dam site.

 

As the demand for water and electricity continued to grow in the 1920's and beyond, three other dams were authorized and built along the Apache Trail between Roosevelt and Apache Junction: The Mormon Flat Dam, Horse Mesa Dam, and Stewart Mountain Dam all created large reservoirs along the route. The juxtaposition of lake and parched desert with steep canyons and odd geology all combine to make the Superstition Mountains and Apache Trail the second most visited region of Arizona, behind the Grand Canyon.

 

Today, much of the Apache Trail is paved. The first section, northbound from Apache Junction to the tiny village of Tortilla Flat and Canyon Lake, is paved. After Tortilla Flat, the remaining miles north to Roosevelt Dam are gravel, and are narrow and sometimes impassable after wet weather, but are routinely maintained and safe for passenger cars in most conditions, although a reduced speed is definitely recommended. Some of the switchbacks and curves are...well...blind, sharp, and require full attention. Lots of people have wrecked because they were looking at the scenery.

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Taken on January 10, 2011