Rose Canyon Lake — a popular woodsy destination for anglers, campers and picnickers — reopens today for the summer season.

The lake in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson is closed to vehicle access during the winter months because the site, at an altitude of 7,000 feet, often has cold weather and snow then.

The reopening is expected to attract some visitors now and an increasing number as the desert heats up and Tucsonans seek a cool, pine-shaded retreat.

“Rose Canyon Lake provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, picnicking, bird-watching, botanizing and fishing in a lovely forest setting,” said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the Coronado National Forest.

The agency is in charge of the site, but a private concessionaire operates it on a day-to-day basis — charging a $10 per vehicle day-use fee and camping fees of $20 per night.

The site “provides a respite from the summer heat as temperatures are significantly cooler than in the Tucson Basin,” Schewel said. “The lake provides a tranquil setting for those wishing to spend quiet time reflecting ... It’s a great place to escape city life and enjoy some of the wonders of the natural world.”


Rose Canyon Lake, which covers about seven acres when at full capacity, was created in 1957 when the Arizona Game and Fish Department built a dam in Rose Canyon.

A campground was constructed soon thereafter, and other facilities have been added over the years.


Schewel said most facilites were aging and difficult to maintain by the late 1990s, and some of them didn’t meet accessibility standards.

In early 2008, the Coronado Forest began six years of construction work to renovate the recreation area.

Over the years, nearly all facilities were reconstructed, including two group picnic sites, 72 campsites, four campground host sites with utilities, 12 vault restrooms, about 2.5 miles of roads, an accessible parking area at the lake and the lakeshore trail.

The final phase of the work — which included reconstruction of portions of the lakeshore trail and drainage improvements — was completed in January. The lake was lowered by about 2 feet to accommodate the work and will be refilled by “natural means” of precipitation and runoff, Schewel said.

She said funding for the projects came from the Recreation Capital Investment Program, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, Recreation Site Improvement funds and Coronado National Forest road funds.

Schewel was asked whether the concessionaire, Recreation Resource Management, which profits from the lake on public land, contributed funding for the renovation work.

“I am not aware of the concessionaire paying for any renovation work,” she said. “They do not own the land or facilities.”

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz