Travel Blog – The Dolly Steamboat- Enjoy a Boat Tour in Arizona
Enjoy a Boat Tour in Arizona! You Read That Right – Experience The Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake off of the Historic Apache Trail
Who knew only a short 20-minute drive on the scenic Highway 88 from Apache Junction, which passes Goldfield Ghost Town and Superstition Mountain Museum, will lead you to an awe-inspiring boat tour on the pristine Canyon Lake. On this adventure on Backpack Pat, we will explore part of the roots of modern-day metropolitan Phoenix through the creation of Canyon Lake and Mormon Flat Dam as well as see all of the natural beauty that lies within the Superstition Mountains. I was fortunate enough to have fellow family members come with me on this tour as this 103-foot-long vessel took us on a several mile trek around Canyon Lake.
Picking Your Tour, Ticket, and Seat on The Dolly Steamboat
Whether you are looking for an afternoon activity or a date night dinner, The Dolly Steamboat can accommodate both options. By visiting their website, you will be able to see what availability exists for multiple dates. While on this website, you can purchase your tickets in advance to help secure your spots on their popular tours. It is advised to purchase tickets in advance as same-day tickets may not always be available. For this adventure, we picked the 90-minute scenic nature tour to showcase all of the beauty and grandeur of this area.
On the day of your aquatic adventure, be sure to arrive about 30 minutes before the boat takes off as you need to provide your information at the ticket booth to obtain your boarding passes. Be sure to park in the Canyon Lake Marina area as the ticket booth is located at the edge of this parking lot. Also, good news, the ticket booth area is shaded to help protect passengers from the Arizona sun. Once you get your ticket, the boarding and the fun can begin!
When stepping foot on the boat, be sure to give your boarding pass to the friendly staff person and take your pick on walking up the stairs to the upper level or find a seat on the lower level. If a child is with you, they will need to put on a life jacket in order to board. Dolly Steamboat staff will provide each child with a life jacket.
Pick a level, seat, and table as there is no bad view on the boat. When we took our tour, we chose the upper level. Also, the windows were closed on both levels as it was a rather hot day. Both levels are air-conditioned and free water was available to all passengers to help everyone stay hydrated. For the nicer days, there is outside seating on both levels to help capture unobstructed views of Canyon Lake.
Once you have settled in your seat, it is suggested to head to the yummy snack bar located on the lower level as the rest of the passengers board. For our 90-minute tour, we grabbed a variety of tasty treats including popcorn, fruit snacks, cookies, and bottled water to share. The snack bar also serves as the gift shop where guests will find a variety of mementos including postcards, key chains, and hats. To help commemorate our first time on The Dolly Steamboat, we picked up three of their postcards.
The Dolly Steamboat staff have to shut down the snack bar for about two minutes before the boat launches so they can go over the safety features of the vessel.
Other amenities on the boat include bathrooms, not one, but three outside decks (two on the lower deck and one on the upper deck), and large sliding glass doors that lead in between the inside and outside areas to help maximize the visual beauty on the tour.
Full Steam Ahead Towards the Beauty of Canyon Lake
Once the boat moves away from the boarding dock, the captain of the boat engages with all of the passengers over an intercom system. He is full of knowledge about the area as he shares a wealth of stories and highlights the natural features. Additionally, since we took the scenic nature cruise, the captain highlights the area where certain native animals can be spotted including bald eagles, desert bighorn sheep, and more.
Points of Interest Pointed Out on the Tour
The Dolly Steamboat traverses a set route on Canyon Lake for our 90-minute tour, but there is so much to see in such a short amount of time. The captain brought history to life by talking about President Teddy Roosevelt and his love for Arizona and details about the scenery such as the ancient, petrified trees embedded in some of the rock formations. One of the most surprising factoids brought up during the tour is that Canyon Lake goes 160 feet down at its deepest point. The captain detailed the life of the Saguaro Cacti that dot around the lake. It is hard to believe that it takes about 70 years for a cactus to grow arms, they can live for up to 200 years and can reach heights up to 60 feet. These details certainly helped the passengers appreciate the protected local cacti even more.
The passengers are encouraged to take photos during the tour, but honestly, the photos do not give the surrounding landscape and the glistening water of Canyon Lake that much justice. In fact, it is hard to gain perspective on the sheer size of some of the formations. Various cliffs that abut Canyon Lake can be as tall as 500 feet!
Out of all of the natural features one can see on the horizon, a man-made structure sticks out at the edge of the first bend in the trip, Mormon Flat Dam. This dam was the first of three hydroelectric dams to be constructed on the lower portion of the Salt River. Construction began in 1923 and finished by 1926 which effectively raised Canyon Lake to both hold water for metropolitan Phoenix and to create electricity for the region. It certainly was a huge undertaking that transformed Arizona and it is remarkable to think that construction of this man-made structure started 100 years ago. One of the most memorable notes mentioned on the tour was that Canyon Lake would not exist as it does today without the Salt River Project.
Other neat factoids brought up during the tour were the vast amount of activities identified that guests can do in and around the Canyon Lake area. On top of the nearby hiking, catching a tour of The Dolly Steamboat, and grabbing a bite to eat at the historic Tortilla Flat, folks are allowed to picnic, camp, jet ski, swim, and fish around Canyon Lake. Don’t be surprised to see boats, kayaks, jet skis, and swimmers around the designated tour as Canyon Lake is a hot spot for water activity and a nice reprieve from the summer temperatures. Interestingly, there are some camping and picnic areas that are only accessible by boat. If you choose to camp in the Canyon Lake area, consider yourself welcome to stay in the area for up to 14 consecutive days! Be sure to obtain the applicable passes and permission for each type of activity you are interested in as this is a protected area.
After hearing about all of the wildlife and natural plantings, it was time to walk around the boat and see what Canyon Lake looked like from different angles. On the outside of the upper deck, there is a sign stating, “Welcome Aboard”, and is a great backdrop to take a family photo. The sign can also frame the different natural features as the steamboat meanders around Canyon Lake.
Being on the upper level outside deck on The Dolly Steamboat presents opportunities to take photos of the scenery at angles and heights that one cannot get anywhere.
One particularly favorite shot to capture is getting the shimmering sunlit water to be in the foreground with the natural landscape and crystal blue skies in the background. With Arizona having plenty of sunny days, getting a shot like the one shown here can certainly enhance The Dolly Steamboat experience.
After walking around the boat capturing what seemed like an endless array of beautiful photos, the 90-minute tour came to an end and safely docked at the Canyon Lake Marina. Hats off to the captain and staff of The Dolly Steamboat for providing a memorable guided tour of Canyon Lake and all that it has to offer. This boat can also be chartered for private events and parties.
As our group traveled back down the Apache Trail towards Apache Junction, the serene peaks and valleys of the nearby mountains reminded me of the waves created from the steamboat’s motors. Coincidentally, this made me thirsty so I went ahead and stopped to get a drink from a local food and beverage establishment in Apache Junction, click here to check out all of the eateries that Apache Junction has to offer.