Roper Lake State Park

Road into Roper Lake State Park. Mount Graham, snow topped in the background.Entry Road Going Into Roper Lake State Park

Roper Lake State Park, one spot we're likely to get to at least once a year, maybe more often! We really like it there. Why do we feel that way? Maybe you'd agree, once you take a trip there! We have lots of Roper Lake pictures for you to see.

Where is Roper Lake? East of Wilcox from Interstate 10, Exit 352, take Hwy. 191 North. About 27 miles, watch for Park sign/right turn onto Roper Lake Rd. Entrance a little farther on right. Hours: 6am-10pm, closed Christmas Day. Address: 101 E Roper Lake Rd, Safford, AZ. Phone: 928-428-6760

How Much Does Roper Lake Cost To Enter?

Added Advantage - Your entry pass gets you Dankworth State Park free entry. What's at Dankworth State Park? Another fishing lake, a hot spring, picnicking, some history, more.

  • Per Car (4 adults) - $10/day pass
  • Individual via foot/bicycle - $3/day pass
  • Staying Over?
  1. Campsites>
  2. Prefer renting a Cabin?>

Park Choices

Lots to do while visiting Roper Lake Park. A day trip, or stay awhile. Plenty of diversions to entertain you. Elevation: 3130 ft., weather's probably good to go every season!

  • Roper Lake Weather:
SAFFORD WEATHER
  • Like camping? Have a travel trailer, tent, motor home? Or arranging a group trip? There's an ideal Site For You
  1. None of those? Get a Nice Cabin!
  • Love Catching Fish? Roper Lake has fabulous spots to cast out, or shove off in A Boat.
  • Want hiking, for some views? The park's main trail is rugged enough for some exercise, yet easy enough for the family. Where's The Trails?
  • A Picnic? Gather your gear to go onto the lake's peninsula and snag a table.
  • Enjoy that summertime cool-off! At Roper Lake's Swimming Area.
  • You're an Animal Lover! You'll love the Birding opportunities here. Are dogs allowed at Roper Lake? They even have a Dog Park!
  • Is Roper Lake man-made Or What?

Roper Lake State Park Camping

Nice Advance Reservations: Three campsite loops. Non-electric: $20/night. Electric: $30/night. (Plus tax.) No full hook-ups. Dump Station near exit. Choose from:

  • Gila - Roper Lake Tent Camping: 5 non-electric sites. Group location for 14 here (10 vehicle minimum reservation), includes group Ramada. Two restrooms nearby, one with showers. Cabins along South & Eastern side of Loop. Tent/group at Northern part of the loop.
Road into campground with Ramadas over picnic tables and some scattered trees. Mountains in the background.A Sampling of Some Cottonwood Sites
  • Cottonwood - 25 water/electric sites in this roomy loop. Most sizable, well-shaded. Restroom with showers available.
  1. We'd recommend numbers 24 & 25 only for Roper Lake Park tenters because of configuration. An RV/towable here must squeeze into a roadside space, while the rest of the section awkwardly steps up behind you. But nice designated areas to pitch a tent.
  • Hacienda - 17 water/electric sites, 5 are pull-thru. Most well-shaded, roomy enough. Not as expansive as Cottonwood. Restroom/showers nearby.
Motor Home parked in a desert campsite.Took Our RV for a Last-Minute Trip, Winter 2016.

Or Cabin Rental

Gila Loop cabins have counters, shelving, ceiling fan, electricity, lighting, heating, AC, door-lock. Beds sleep up to six (max 4 adults). Outdoors: covered deck, picnic table, grills, fire pit, most with fish cleaning sink. Bring your bedding. Maximum 2 pets where allowed, surcharge: $5/night each.

State Park camping cabins are log-cagin style, with mountains in background and scattered trees around.These Nice Camping Cabins Await Your Reservation

Eight named cabins To Choose:

  • Bear - South Side, closest to rest-room/shower access. Front room: full size bed, 2nd room: single bed & bunk-bed. Outside swing. No pets, $60 night.
  • Elk - South Side, close to rest-room/shower access. 2 full beds + bunk-bed in large room. No pets, $60 night.
  • Lion - South Side, swing outside. Front room: full bed. 2nd room: single bed + bunk-bed. No pets, $60 night.
  • Mustang or the Roadrunner - South Side, nearest to pit-toilet. Front room: full bed. 2nd room: single bed + bunk-bed. Pet-friendly, $60 night.
  • Coyote - Lake-side, nearest to pit-toilet. Front room: full bed. 2nd room: single bed + bunk-bed. Pet-friendly, $70 night.
  • Hummingbird - Lake-side, near to pit-toilet. Front room: full bed. 2nd room: single bed + bunk-bed. Pet-friendly, $70 night.
  • Bass - ADA accessible, lake-side, swing outside. Front room: full-size bed. 2nd room: 2 sets of bunk-beds. Pet-friendly, $70 night.
Log cabin with fence adjacent and tree in front aside a lake.The Bass Cabin, by the lake, ADA Accessible

Roper Lake Park Fishing

Lake with dock on far side, surrounded by reeds and a single tall tree, with  plant-life on foreshore.Nice Fishing Dock on Roper Lake's North Shore

To fish in Roper Lake State Park, you can hook largemouth bass & channel catfish. Plus panfish like bluegill, crappie, and those delish sunfish! Rainbow trout stocked in cooler months. The 32 water-acres are normal,4 but with drought conditions, boat fishing may get more difficult.

To access lakeside areas to fish, take the first left turn after the entry station. Pass the first picnic area, you'll find parking by a fishing dock.

Have a boat? Only electric motors or people power allowed.Continue on the road, it winds around the Lake. You'll see a boat ramp/dock parking lot. 

Remember: have your valid Arizona fishing license, if you're age 10/+. Note: minnows as bait prohibited.


Roper Lake Boating & Rental

two people in kayaks on a lakeHaving Fun at Roper Lake With Their Own Kayaks

Your Own Watercraft - Smaller boats, people-powered or with electric motors allowed. No craft powered by gasoline motors. Roper lake is relatively small, with 30 surface acres.4 Drought conditions hamper the extent to where boats can navigate.

  • Your watercraft, motorized or not, must conform to Arizona laws. If motorized that means registration.4

Roper Lake Boat Rental - At times Kayak rental was available at Roper Lake State Park. That's currently suspended. For information regarding whenever/if a possible program return, call 928-428-6760.4


Take a Hike!

Man standing at the beginning of a trail head.

The amount of hiking at Roper Lake State Park suits us fine! When we're there for a relaxed outing.

Total hike mileage is only about 5.4

Bill's ready to start!

  • Roper Lake Park's Mariah Mesa Trail4 - Only about 1/2 mile one way, the main hiking attraction. Your effort involves pretty quick elevation (78' gain) getting to the mesa's top. But not overly strenuous. Rest bench along the way, if needed. Also educational plaques. 
From atop a mesa, viewing the desert and a lake with mountains in the background.View at the top, looking over Roper Lake, while following the Mariah Mesa Trail.
Downhill trail from a mesa top, with steps to help navigate a gravelly trail. Some buildings, trees and mountains in the distance. Photographer is casting a late day shadow into the photo.Does it look Scary?
  1. The pathway itself is somewhat gravelly, so especially downhill, be careful of slippage. There's some steps, etc. to help. You'll find the route splits. Take the left for completing at the old Hot Springs hot-tub & Dog Park. Go right to the Mariah Mesa Spur, ending just past Hacienda Loop Road entrance. Same distance for either choice.

A former natural hot tub fed by a hot springs that is no longer workingBill's ending the hike at the now defunct Hot Tub
  • Fenceline Trail4 - Pretty descriptive. Beginning as you start downhill from Mariah Mesa Trail. Look for its entrance on the right. Downward until you reach the fenceline separating the next property from Roper Lake State Park. Then it follows the fenceline mostly until crossing the paved Park Management Road. Continue across to access a decision ahead. Join up with West Hill Loop. Or look left & rearward for the way out to the main park road. From there, go right for Island Day Use/Swimming, OR left for camping Loop Roads. 1/2 mile, excluding Mariah Mesa & paved roads.
  • West Hill Loop4 - Couple of dead-end spurs off this loop. Best to begin at northeast corner of Island Day Use parking lot. 
  1. Follows Roper Lake shoreline, around West Hill Day Use Facility. Curving around the lake's small inlet edge. You'll reach 3 trek choices. 
  2. Go Left for to follow the path to East Mesa Day Use Area. 
  3. Go Right to stay on West Loop Hill Trail, where shortly it splits in 2: left to the road to East Mesa Day Use parking (this way: 0.3 miles), right = dead-end. 
  4. Continue Straight, you'll hook up with ending of Fenceline Trail.

Roper Lake State Park Picnic Spots

Picnicking for the afternoon, or while here at a campsite? Either way, discover multiple choices:

  • Alone Lakeside - Two separated picnic tables situated along Roper Lake's Northern edge. Take the (unnamed) left turn, off E. Roper Lake Rd. that's just behind Ranger Station Entry.
  • East Mesa Day Use Area - Continue along the north road, past the pier & 2 picnic tables. Go around the curve & past the boat ramp parking. Continue to a picnic area with tables, Ramada & rest room.
  • West Hill Day Use Area - Follow E. Roper Lake Rd. past Campground loops. Then take the 2nd right to park. Tables, Ramadas & rest room.
  • Island Day Use Area - At E. Roper Lake Road's end. Large parking area. Pleasant, grassy space on a peninsula. Large Group Ramada with tables. Picnic tables scattered along the peninsula's perimeter. Lots of shade-trees. Swimming beach is here. Rest room at the parking lot. No glass containers here.4
Man wearing an Australian Bush Hat enters a walkway to a picnic area. The sidewalk is surrounded by mesquite trees. A sign ahead explains area rules.We're Going to the Island Day Use Area - Bill's About to Read the Advisements.

Can You Swim at Roper Lake?

Swimming Beach - The swimming section is cordoned off, to separate boating. To swim at Roper Lake, drive into the park, following East Roper Lake Rd., all the way to the end. Enter the large parking lot. The swimming beach is here. Walk onto the peninsula, see the sandy beach along the left side. Picnic Tables are above, overlooking the beach.

Picnic areas above with shade trees and Ramadas, slope down to a sandy beach at lakeside. A lake with protected swimming area. Mountains in the background.An Inviting Place to Spend an Afternoon!

 Please be safe while swimming:4

  1. Observe posted signs
  2. No life guards at this beach, so swim responsibly - at your own risk.
  3. Stay within designated swimming spot
  4. Be aware that water temperatures are quite variable. Warm in one area to very cold a short distance away. Have cover-ups, avoid hypothermia.
  5. Wear minimum 30spf sunblock while at Roper Lake beach, protecting yourself from sun damage.
Shaded sitting area next to a garbage can for a facility with an outdoor hot tub.Natural Hot Tub: RIP

Hot Tub - You may notice the facilities. Across from the Dog Park. Awhile back a natural hot spring supplied the water. It was sooo nice! We'd take our grandkids camping with us. They'd love getting a turn in there! So exciting when you're 8, 9 & 10 years old! But sadly that hot spring dried up.

So the hot tub is now shut.4

  • There is a natural hot spring over at Dankworth State Park. You have free entry with your Roper Lake State Park entry pass.4

What About Animals at Roper Lake State Park?

Bring Your Pets to Roper Lake

Pets are allowed at the Park.4 What's enjoyable for your barky, furry pals is the Dog Park!

Overall, observe these restrictions/rules:4

  • Supervise your pet at all times
  • Out in public, your pet must be leashed; maximum: six feet long
  • Pick up after your pet: hygienically place pet waste into a designated bin.
  • Pets prohibited on a swimming beach or in specific cabin rentals
  • Pets disallowed in state park buildings, cabanas, or anywhere designated as environmentally sensitive. Exception: service animals.
  • Some exceptions apply for ADA qualified Service Animals, when leashing interferes with the animal’s work, or the person’s disability prevents using such a device. If so, Service Animals must be under effective control through voice, signal, etc. False use of a pet or comfort animal as a service animal is fraud and subject to federal prosecution.

Watching Birds & Other Animals at Roper Lake

Perched on a tree branch is a flycatcher bird, mostly red with a black mask across its eyes and dark brown wings and tail, with a pointy beak.This Vermillion Flycatcher on the Island Day Use Peninsula Had a Good Time, While We Relaxed!

Birding - Bird watchers love seeing some of the birds here.

  • Many common species: redwing blackbird, yellow headed blackbird, cardinal, flycatchers, mallard ducks, American coots (colder months). But watch for these also:4
A roadrunner looks directly at the camera, a tree trunk is in the corner of the photo. Desert leaf trash is scattered on the ground.Do You Think This Roadrunner Was Hamming It Up? When We Took This Pic at our Roper Lake Campsite?
  • You never know when a roadrunner may visit you. It's happened for us! Very cool.
  • Large waders: American Egret & the beautiful Great Blue Heron.
  • Spot the tricky kingfisher, that's a find!
  • Maybe a passing Gamble's Quail couple. In spring, their family of little ones following. So cute!
  • At night, watch for a swooping Great Horned Owl.
Two Gambles quail, male and female couple on top of a fence rail in the desert surroundings.Gambles Quail Couple - Loving a Trek Atop a Fence Rail

More Wild Animals - What else might you see at Roper Lake State Park? Be aware.4

  • Surely the most common: Rabbits & squirrels, deer at dusk & early morning.
  • Bobcats have been known to make an appearance. Keep your distance.
  • Raccoons can come around at night, looking for your food & scraps - they're not so friendly as their cute appearance seems. So keep food cleaned up!
  • Be aware at night for coyotes, also early mornings & dusk. They don't normally approach people. You may hear them (in packs!) more than see them (when you do, usually alone!). Sometimes you have the chance...
Coyote muzzling around in desert sand amidst some desert plants.Lone Coyote Near Our Home

Roper Lake Park Environmental History

A desert bush called the Creosote.The Creosote Bush is widespread in Southwestern deserts.

Roper Lake State Park was created in 1974, with cooperative agreement from Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Mostly Chihuahuan Desert, plant-life is mainly creosote, tarbush, mesquite, agave, ocotillo, and particularly lechugilla. The riparian waterways assist with promoting wildlife habitat.1

Source of Roper Lake - The land within the park has a sub-surface water aquifer. A surfacing hot spring is directed along fabricated waterways into a wetland containing two large, cattail encircled pools. The pools' waters are directed about 800 feet into the lake.1


Problematic Plants and Animals

Park flora includes invasive plants that cause some havoc. Cattail is native, but must be curtailed because it can overtake this small Arizona lake. Some wildlife habitats would be destroyed, and diverse native species would fight for their own lives. Other non-native invasives are Russian olive, saltcedar, and Bermuda grass.1

Even animals can be a concern. Mosquitofish and green sunfish in Roper Lake can overtake endemic fish species:

  • Mosquitofish - Named for false mosquito control reputation. Now shown it eliminates fish better for killing mosquitos. Plus it's aggressive, attacking/killing valuable fish (like bass). Particularly harmful for endangered Sonoran topminnow.2
  • Green Sunfish - Another aggressive fish. Locally it's contributing to declining populations of the native Chiricahua leopard frog.3

Drought

Arizona has been in a systematic drought, month after month.5 At Roper Lake the difference has been noticeable. Even when good monsoon seasons occur, like recently in the 2021 summer, it's not enough to bring full replenishment for natural underground aquifers.

Here's the difference from January 2016 (take stairway to water, no beach) to summer 2020. The drought created the beach.

Stairway into swimming area at Roper Lake. Picnic area at the top has palm trees. Man in red shirt and white hat stands there.Bill Looks at Stairway for Accessing Swimming in Jan. 2016
Roper lake beach and swimming area. A shade tree at the top of the hill by the swimming area, and mountains in the background.Compare that to 2020.

This affects animals and plants. They both need water, but find less in their habitat. Arizona summers can be hot. Spring and early summer is typically very dry. We can see how the drought affects lake waters. Animals find they're in a fight to even survive!5 Roper Lake is an important resource for them. 


References

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