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Horseshoe Dam and Lake

Horseshoe Dam is named for the horseshoe-shaped bend in the Verde River at the dam site. It forms Horseshoe Lake, a quiet destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Learn about the dam’s WWII roots and how it helped increase the Valley’s water supply. 

Supporting the war effort and our water supply 

Horseshoe Dam was built between 1944 and 1946 by the Phelps Dodge Corporation (a mining company) and the Defense Plant Corporation (an agency of the emergency government during World War II).

The dam was built as part of a water exchange arrangement between Phelps Dodge and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association. In return for building the dam, which would increase the Valley’s water supply, Phelps Dodge would get access to more supplies of water from the Black River.

Phelps Dodge needed a way to access more water because, in response to an increased demand for copper during World War II, they had nearly doubled their production capacity at the Morenci copper mine in eastern Arizona.*

After Horseshoe Dam was completed in 1946, it helped increase the Phoenix area’s water supply with water from Blue Ridge Reservoir and Show Low Lake, both of which are located on the Little Colorado River watershed.

Spillway gates, funded by the City of Phoenix, were added in 1949 to establish water rights for the city's water users.

Today, the earthen dam stands 144 feet tall and 1,500 feet long, including the spillway.

The dam forms Horseshoe Lake, a quiet lake that offers camping, fishing and hiking.

Things to do at Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake, also known as Horseshoe Reservoir, is one of the most remote lakes in the Phoenix area. That makes this lake a little tricky to get to but also makes it the perfect place to escape crowds and enjoy scenic desert views.

​Always check the water levelsOpen new site. before you go – Horseshoe is often drained when water in the reservoir is needed.

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Stay the night

Explorers will find a variety of places to camp near the water at Horseshoe Lake, including 12 campsites with fire rings, picnic tables and vault toilets.

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Enjoy the peaceful waters

There are no water sports allowed on the lake, so it offers a relaxing spot to boat, kayak, canoe or paddleboard.

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Cast your line

When the lake is filled, anglers will find crappie, large and smallmouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, carp and bluegill.

Enjoy Horseshoe Lake responsibly

Find resources to plan a safe and fun day on the water at Horseshoe Lake.

Official Arizona Boating Safety Course Online

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Watercraft Rules & Regulations

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Renew Your Watercraft Registration Online

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