Crested Saguaros and Horseshoe Lake

By Jeff Insel

My wife and I decided to venture out to Horseshoe Lake for a getaway of a couple of hours. We hadn’t been there before, even though we’ve lived within 32 miles for almost 30 years.  I brought my camera in the hopes that we might see something interesting along the way and I’m glad I did.

Once you make the turn off of Cave Creek Road to the Bartlett Lake turnoff you finally sense that you’ve begun to “get away from it all” and you have hilly, desert landscape all around. Before reaching Bartlett Lake, you’ll turn left onto Horseshoe Lake Dam Road – paved for a about 3 miles and then it becomes a graded dirt road – there several spots where the recent rain runoff had left dips and pot holes along the way but regular vehicles could still get along ok.

Our first surprise was seeing a Cristate or Crested Saguaro off to the west or left side of the road as we drove towards the lake, it was only about a mile or two on the dirt road and about 100 yards out. These are somewhat rare and you can for years without seeing one as you travel around the Sonoran Desert so I made sure to stop and get a photo.

As you approach Horseshoe Lake you first come to the Dam viewpoint turnoff and we thought we’d check it out. Turns out to be very interesting. It’s not a huge dam compared to Glen Canyon Dam or Hoover Dam and it’s easily accessible. There’s an overlook of the spillway to the left of the Dam and you’ll notice that it also has a walkway underway that spillway where you can walk and then go up to the Dam itself and view the lake and surrounding mountains.  It’s not too far a walk there and back with a slight incline on the road up to the Dam from the spillway. The spillway makes for some interesting photo opportunities.

On the road back out we noticed another Crested Saguaro about 25 yards off the road to the west between mile markers 7 & 6 and took a few minutes to capture a photo of it. I couldn’t believe we’d found two in just a few hours and not too far from each other, in 32 years living in Arizona I’ve only seen about four altogether.  Made for a very pleasant and pleasing few hours.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.