Watson Lake and Granite Valleys

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Man of Rock: The rocks that form an island at Watson Lake appear to resemble a man of rock standing proudly looking out through the water. The balanced rock on top forming the head and the vertical granite boulders forming the body, arms and legs. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

By GARY WARREN
Photographer
Formerly of Los Alamos

Located just four miles north of downtown Prescott, Arizona are the Granite Dells, which contain thousands of granite boulders and two lakes, Willow Creek Reservoir and Watson Lake. Part of the Granite Dells and Watson Lake make up Watson Lake Park, one of the finest urban parks in the state.

The huge boulders of granite that make up the Dells are 1.4 billion years old. Millennia of erosion, weathering, and geologic activity have created the spherical-shaped rocks we see today. Dells spawn quickly when approaching the area from any direction. Highway 89 that runs north from Prescott runs through the center of the Dells, giving travelers a nice view of the area from the roadway.

For the purposes of this article, I am featuring Watson Lake as it is owned by the City of Prescott and is part of the City Park. We were lucky enough to spend several days in an RV park adjacent to the city park and easily accessible by hiking.

The Chino Valley Irrigation District dammed Granite Creek in the early 1900s. The City of Prescott purchased the lake and surrounding land in 1997. The city wanted to preserve the area as recreational land. Today, Watson Lake Park is a gem of an urban park that offers visitors a variety of outdoor recreational activities.

To add to the beauty, Watson Lake is surrounded by the Granite Dells. The granite boulders glisten in the Arizona sun and offer plenty of climbing and hiking opportunities. The park offers two boat ramps for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boards, boating, and fishing. The valleys around the shore as well as several islands offer coves and niches for water lovers to explore. Numerous hiking and biking trails take visitors throughout the park and the rocky glens offer climbers plenty of challenges.

In addition to various sports activities, Watson Lake is ideal for family outings and picnics. There is a campground on the property, but it’s only open during the summer months. There is a disc golf course, horseshoes and pétanque in addition to a children’s play area and ball fields.

The beautiful rocky landscape surrounding Watson Lake provides photographers with limitless photo opportunities and the light and time of day allow the scenes to continually change. While we enjoyed clear blue skies each day we were in Prescott, the stormy monsoon season clouds hanging over the Dells and the lake would make for very dramatic photos.

This municipal park could easily be a state park due to the activities offered and the geological history of the glens and the history of Watson Lake. The park is open all year round. We will definitely return to this beautiful park on future trips to Arizona; maybe the next visit will provide storm clouds over the area for some spectacular photos!

Editor’s Note: Longtime Los Alamos photographer Gary Warren and his wife Marilyn travel the country, and he shares his photographs, which appear in the “Posts from the Road” series published in the edition Sunday issue of the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Watson Lake: Huge, round, lumpy granite boulders surround Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona. The lake and its surroundings constitute Watson Lake Park, a municipal park owned by the City of Prescott. The park offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities for visitors. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

City Park: A large grassy area provides space for many outdoor activities at Watson Lake Park, which is owned by the city of Prescott, Arizona. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

Hiker: A single hiker seen in red in the lower left of this photo looks into the water of Watson Lake. Hikers offer a sense of scale as to the size of these granite boulders that surround the lake. Hiking trails run through the park, including several paths through the rocks. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

Islands and Coves: The unique geological granite formations that make up the Dells also create many islands of varying sizes. The islands and coastline also create many coves for water sports enthusiasts to explore around the lake. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

Water Sports: Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boards and other watercraft offer participants a chance to explore Watson Lake in all areas. The city park offers two boat launches for boaters as well as rental sources for boaters who do not have their own watercraft. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com

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