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One Tank Trips: Parker Canyon Lake

Good Morning Tucson is taking you to fun places around southern Arizona, where you can go on just one tank of gas.
Parker Canyon Lake
Posted at 2:00 AM, Jul 05, 2024

ELGIN, Ariz. — This summer KGUN 9 and Good Morning Tucson are hosting a summer series, "One Tank Trips," taking you to fun spots around southern Arizona that you can get to on just one tank of gas.

This time, we're heading to Elgin near the border, for a day on the water at Parker Canyon Lake.

If you're looking for a serene, quiet getaway, make a b-line... or a fishing line... for Parker Canyon.

"It's hard to complain when you're stuck on a lake," Colton Bond told us. He manages the marina at "the year-round mountain playground" as their tag line goes. He's your go-to guy for renting a boat and getting you out on the water.

"We have plenty of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, pedal boats, tandem kayaks, canoes, motorboats, and even one pontoon boat that's a good party barge. It fits 10 people, you can get your friends to all kind of pitch in on it, and it makes it pretty affordable."

They keep the lake calm, 10 horse power is the max on the boats, which keeps it perfect for swimming.

"There's no designated spot to go swimming, it's all free game. So wherever you find that that looks good, you're welcome to swim out," Bond said. "It's one of the cleanest lakes in Arizona. Plenty of algae and everything that cleans out the water and makes it look real good."

The lake is also fully stocked for fishing, with trout, bass, blue gill and catfish, all of which you can catch and eat.

The marina can rent you a fishing pole for the day, and they've got everything else you'll need. They even have a laptop to get your fishing license right there.

"If it's your kids' first time fishing, you can come out here and guarantee them a fish," Bond said. "We have a funny saying, if you say there's no fish in this lake, you just don't know how to fish! Because if we look around, they're jumping everywhere right now, which is super cool."

Back on land, you'll find the campgrounds. There's an indoor bathroom, and each camping space has a fire pit and a view. They have a section for RVs, and the rest of the space is for tents. All of the camping is first come first serve, except for one bigger spot for bigger groups, called the Rock Bluff Group Site, which you can reserve ahead of time online.

Parker Canyon Lake is a stop on the Arizona Trail, but it also has a five mile hike, the Parker Canyon Lake Shore Trail, which takes you all around the lake.

"Bring the kids out," Bond said. "Five miles sounds like a lot, but when you've got water to look at all the way around, it makes it worth it."

Bond will be the first to tell you, a day or two at Parker Canyon Lake with your whole family, will make memories.

"We got the water and the boats and the friendly atmosphere that other places seem to lack," Bond said, "and it's one of the great places to come to, because not a lot of folks know about it. One of the better kept secrets in Arizona for sure."

Looking at pricing, the marina charges between $20 and $120 based on which boat you're renting, and for how long. Fishing boat rentals start at $65, with the poles and gear for $10-$15.

To park at the lake, it's $8 a day, or $10 for the week. It's $20 a night to camp, but that covers your parking.

If you have a national parks pass, it's all free.

Parker Canyon Lake is about 60 miles from Tucson, just north of the border. It took us about an hour and a half to drive there, so depending on your gas mileage, you should be able to make the round trip on about five gallons of gas, which should be less than $20.

To learn more about their rentals and costs, check out the Parker Canyon Lake website here.

Claire Graham is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. She grew up in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in musical theatre. Claire spent a decade in Washington state, where she worked in journalism, met her husband and welcomed their baby boy, before moving back home. Share your story ideas and important issues with Claire by emailing claire.graham@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.