We live in an
Active Adult Community, and one of the benefits of doing so is
having the availability of group tours for an excellent price.
For $10 USD we were transported from our doorstep by an air
conditioned bus driven by a Limo driver to Canyon Lake, about an
hour away. This same $10 covered our entrance fee into the park
and the 90 minute narrated nature cruise on the Steamboat Dolly,
a replica of a Sternwheeler paddleboat. Ice cold bottled water
was provided as well. On this 100 degree day, that was most
unfamiliar with living in America's stunning southwest, consider
desert scenery to be bleak and uninviting. However, those of us
acquainted with the gnarly bushes, strange looking cacti and
seemingly barren earth find mystery, adaptability and a tale of
A small gully wash
is in the foreground of the photo and
Saguaro cacti which are over 50 years old!
Now we are
approaching Canyon Lake which has a surface area of 950 acres.
There are 28.3 miles of shoreline at the lake and its length is
10 miles. The deepest place in the lake is 142 feet and is
filled by the Salt River.
younger Saguaro cacti in this photo. They do not yet have the
distinctive 'arm' of an older cactus, which normally grows at
about the 50 year mark in the life of the Saguaro.
gives you a closer look at the spines of
the Saguaro cactus which grow straight out like a needle.
gracious and professional Limo driver hauled
the twenty-five of us from our community homes to the Canyon lakeside.
1983, the Dolly
Steamboat is a replica of a Sternwheeler paddleboat and weighs 40 tons! One hundred and three feet long, it
will hold 155 passengers.
some other passengers who were waiting, walked the concrete
incline to board the double-decker boat and found seats in the
shade. It was well over the 100 degree mark by now.
boarding the boat, it slowly paddled away from shore and out
into the lake. Captain Jeff Grimh put on background music which
teleported us into a three dimensional experience as we observed
nature's magnificence. It was like watching a true country
western, and respect for both native peoples and pioneers was
caves are hollowed out in the sides of the mountains. After
dark, the bats
come out by the thousands for their evening feed.
gave us awesome views of the towering mountains and the 70
It looks like
the lake ends here already, but of course, we made the
turn where it opens up again to outstanding scenery. We
made many of these turns and around each corner was a stunning
cliffs with spots of craggy bushes. A brutal and rugged beauty.
How did the natives and the first settlers here survive?
boulders make a jagged outline against the dazzling blue sky.
single barrel cactus clings on for life. They seem to need
almost no soil to take hold.
A closer look
will show you that the spines of
this barrel cactus curve like a fish hook. They grow towards the
sun and often seem to appear ready to fall over! Unlike other
plants they grow towards the south in order to prevent sunburn
and are also called 'compass cactus' because of this feature.
If you look
closely, you will see round protruding shapes coming out of the
rocky hillside. These are remnants of tree trunks that have now
petrified into stone.
the neighborhood! More pitted
holes into the hillside. Animal or bird homes?
black vertical lines on these rocks are made from minerals
deposited onto the sides of the mountains by waterfalls after a
rain. This natural process is called 'staining.'
It's hard to
imagine that these seemingly barren cliffs are teeming with
If you look
closely in the center of the photo, you will see a Bighorn
Sheep. He blends in well with the background and from a
distance, he is difficult to see at all. Completely vegetarian, he
feasts upon the green shrubbery of the hillside. You can see
some 'jumping cholla' cactus on both sides of the Bighorn Sheep.
A closer look
at the Jumping Cholla cactus. During droughts, animals like the
bighorn sheep rely on the fruit from this cactus for food and
water. The name 'jumping cholla' comes from the ease with which
the stems detach from the plant and attach themselves to your
clothes or body, seeming to 'jump' out at you!
many types of plants in the desert and they can take on odd shapes
and characteristics. This many stemmed bush
loses its leaves and underneath is a tough, woody, honeycomb lattice-work
pear cactus is in full bloom. The flat green leaves are known as nopales and are a common food in Mexico. The bright red fruit
are known as cactus figs and are often used to make candies,
jellies and a refreshing drink. Birds love them too!
coloring on the side of this mountain is a desert lichen known
only to grow in this area. This lichen gives a subtle coloring
to the red rock.
minutes out in the over 100 degree heat, I'm ready for some ice
prices of the 90 minute narrated nature cruise through the
secluded inner waterways of the Junior Grand Canyon on Canyon
Lake call 480. 827. 9144 or check out their website at