by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Coordinator – City of Prescott
As a Prescott local, you often hear discussions about how fortunate we are to live in such a respectively mild climate, with more days of sunshine than not. Many who have relocated to this area confirm it is this very quality that first attracted them. The role of the Recreation Services Department is to provide enhanced quality of life for our visitors and residents alike, while maintaining facilities in an aesthetically pleasing manner. One example of how we do this is through the management of our three lakes.
Currently, under our management are Watson Lake, Willow Lake and Goldwater Lake. All area lakes have benefited from the abundant moisture winter storms provided this past season. Willow Lake, particularly, seems to have benefited, judging by the swarms of ducks, birds and other wildlife that have been seen frequently this year. Willow Lake typically sees fewer visitations in comparison to Watson and Goldwater, although the scenery and amenities are quite unique.
A multipurpose trail circles Willow Lake, however the East Bay Loops portion are impassable when the water levels are high. Open year-round to bicyclists, hikers and horseback riders, the trail is 5.2 miles in length and approximately 60 feet in total altitude change. The trail can be accessed via several parking locations. An improved, fee-based parking area is accessible from Willow Creek Road, near the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. Non fee-based access is found at Jim McCasland Willow Creek park (behind the dog park) and what is commonly referred to the Britni trailhead adjacent to Vista Del Lago Estates and Sarafina Drive, off Willow Lake Road.
The department does offer up a pre-paid parking pass option for frequent visitors. Parking in the improved areas does have its benefits, particularly at Willow Lake. On Saturday mornings from 10 a.m.-noon, the local chapter of the Arizona Archeological Society is on-site to provide tours of the prehistoric pit houses that were discovered after the city purchased the lakes in 1998.
Summer months are popular times for special gatherings, such as company picnics, weddings and family reunions. Willow Lake offers two covered ramadas, each distinctive in their views. The Hilltop ramada offers stunning views of the surrounding mountain peaks, such as Granite Mountain, Glassford Hill, and Thumb Butte, as well as the lake itself. Tucked in between the sports complex at Heritage Park and Willow Lake is the Garden ramada, which offers convenient proximity to the restroom and playground.
While there is no swimming allowed, Willow Lake offers excellent kayaking and canoeing opportunities as well as fishing prospects. Largemouth bass, Crappie, Catfish, Bluegill, and Sunfish can all be found among the aforementioned wildlife. Arizona Game and Fish Department regulations apply at all of the city-managed lakes.
If you and your family or friends have not ventured out to Willow Lake, it is strongly suggested you see what it has to offer!
For more information on the amenities at Willow Lake, or any other City of Prescott Recreation Services Department managed facilities, please visit Prescott-az.gov/services/parks, or call 928-777-1122. Parking at fee-based areas is waived on Wednesdays. Information on the Mile High Trail system can be found at prescotttrails.com