Water in the Desert: Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake, fall 2009

Reorganizing photo archives as I move to a new computer, I came across this, from a fall 2009 trip to Phoenix. Tempe Town Lake, in the words of its boosters…

embodies a unique vision for the future of the Valley. Town Lake is a regional and national destination, welcoming millions each year.

Recognized as a top attraction in Arizona, visitors and local families spend their time enjoying nature, recreational activities, and cultural events.

Nature? Frankly as a natural amenity I think it’s a little freakish. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but building an urban lake in the heart of a desert city is an attempt to fight off nature, not embrace it. The fact that it was initially filled with imported Colorado River water, pumped up from Parker Dam, doesn’t help. Not a complaint, just an observation.

Also worth noting: the picture was taken before the dam broke last summer and the lake emptied. It was refilled with Salt River Project water from Roosevelt Dam. The flush of water from the dam break seems to have caused no significant problems, and the biggest concern about getting it fixed and refilled seems to have been getting it done in time for the Arizona Ironman triathlon, which says something – I’m not sure exactly what – about the way we’ve become somewhat unhitched in our relationship with water here in the U.S. deserts. Wikipedia has a nice summary of the affair.


  1. Dano – Absolutely! When I was writing this, I was recalling our conversation about Tingley Beach, the artificial water fishing pond here in Albuquerque that I drove you by on your visit.

Comments are closed.