Apache Trail Circle Route

Gold Canyon, Arizona

Wow, what a great road trip we took yesterday.


Apache Trail Circle Route is a 120 mile historic road that runs east from Apache Junction to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. From there it runs south to the junction between Globe and Miami. Then west to Superior and on through Queen Valley and back to Apache Junction through Gold Canyon.

Although the trail’s official name today is “State Route 88”, it adopted the name “Apache Trail” in reference to the Apache Indians who originally inhabited the Superstition Mountains. The road was initially built as a way to open copper trade between the city of Globe and the Phoenix area. Today, however, it has become a very popular tourist destination. Winding through the Superstition Mountains, this circular road provides some of the most beautiful scenic views in central Arizona. It guides you up and down the steep desert mountains, past cliff dwellings, lake shores, eroded canyons, and old mining towns. (From viator.com)

Here are some pictures and highlights of our trip…

Canyon Lake is simply stunning. It is one of four reservoirs formed by the damming of the Salt River. The lake was formed by the Mormon Flat Dam, which was completed in 1925.


There were lots of fishermen in the lake, and  many birds reside in the area. It’s a birders’ paradise. We saw coots, mergansers (no clue what type),  and a type of hawk that I’m still trying to figure out. (He was huge with a buff colored chest.)


Just a bit east of Canyon Lake we saw hunters with HUGE telescopic lens looking for bighorn sheep. They obviously were set up for a long day because they had shade umbrellas and walkie talkies…


…to talk with their fellow hunters across the valley actually hunting the sheep.  We didn’t see any sheep, but we did see the hunters with our binoculars smack dab in the middle of this picture. Can you see them? Ha ha… I couldn’t either, but Rich did and pointed them out so that I finally saw them.


This is the first part of Apache Lake we saw. It’s a long skinny lake that must be very popular with house boaters based on the number of them we saw docked in the marinas.

Apache Lake is formed by Horse Mesa Dam which impounds the Salt River. It was completed in 1927 and is the second largest of the four Salt River Project reservoirs.


Our drive took us right alongside the length of Apache Lake.


All the vegetation on the north side of the mountains is sublimely green and lush.


At the end of Apache Lake is the Theodore Roosevelt Dam which is at the base of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. This dam is the largest of the Salt River Project Dams, and the Roosevelt is the largest lake that is wholly inside the state of Arizona.

Construction of the Roosevelt Dam started in 1904. When it was completed in 1911, Roosevelt Dam was the tallest masonry dam in the world at 280 feet.


In 1996, a massive expansion project aimed at increasing the capacity of the lake was finished. The dam was resurfaced with concrete and raised an additional 77 feet.

This increased the lake’s capacity by over 20% and provided much needed flood control space on the Salt River. Shortly after completion, however, the area entered into a prolonged period of drought, and it wasn’t until 2005 when the new capacity was used. The lake reached 100% capacity in 2009.

You can see the demarcation line for the old and new portions of the dam in this photo of the back side of the dam.


All of the block for the original portion of the dam was hand cut. Here’s a sample.


And spanning the lake just near the dam is the Roosevelt Lake Bridge. It is painted a beautiful light blue and is just stunning. In 1996 it was named one of the twelve most outstanding bridges in the nation; that list included the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges.