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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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3/30/2013 10:00:00 PM
THE POWER OF WATER: Shoreside trail boosts hiking, fishing appeal at Watson Lake
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierCity of Prescott trail specialist Chris Hosking and Parks and Recreation assistant superintendent Steve Mancha hike the new Lakeshore/Fishing Trail at Watson Lake Thursday morning in Prescott.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
City of Prescott trail specialist Chris Hosking and Parks and Recreation assistant superintendent Steve Mancha hike the new Lakeshore/Fishing Trail at Watson Lake Thursday morning in Prescott.

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - For Scottsdale residents Lori and Todd Freeman, the new path skirting the Watson Lake shoreline offered a somewhat rare Arizona opportunity: an up-close encounter with a body of water.

"The hiking around water - coming from the Valley - is unique," Todd Freeman said this week as he and his wife walked the half-mile section of Watson Lake trail that the Over the Hill Gang volunteers and city parks and recreation workers recently completed.

The Freemans, who were among a half-dozen or so hikers on the Lakeside/Fishing Trail Thursday morning, said they were checking out several of the area trails during their stay at the Prescott Resort.

"We hiked Goldwater Lake yesterday," Freeman said. "Prescott has a tremendous amount to offer. There are definitely awesome views."

As a new section of the 4.7-mile Watson Lake Loop Trail, city officials expect the Lakeside trail to get heavy traffic by hikers.

"I think this will be one of our most popular trails," city trails specialist Chris Hosking said, noting that the views of the lake's granite-rock formations, as well as the easy access from the main Watson Lake parking lot, likely would attract plenty of sightseers.

But Hosking and Parks and Recreation Assistant Superintendent Steve Mancha say the real beauty of the new trail section may lie in its benefits to the fishermen who frequent the Watson Lake shore.

Conceived as a "fishing trail," the Lakeside section dips often to within a few feet of the water's edge.

Before the trail construction, Mancha said fishermen had a difficult time getting close enough to cast their lines. "It was nip and tuck, and there were a lot of hazards," he said.

Karen Mason Sheats, a volunteer with the Over the Hill Gang, agreed. "I noticed a lot of people fishing along here, and a lot of them had their kids with them," she said Thursday as she used a pick to define the edges of the new trail.

The area was so precarious, Mancha said, that when he and Hosking first walked the route, "I didn't think (the trail) could be done."

The Over the Hill Gang volunteers spent weeks building the rock walls that support the narrow trail, Hosking said.

Mancha, who makes frequent visits to the lake, said the weekends often attract as many as 50 fishermen along the Watson Lake shore. Many are catching trout of about seven to 12 inches, he said.

Eric Smith, special projects administrator of the city, noted that the Arizona Game and Fish regularly stocks the lake with trout from November through March. The last stocking of the season occurred recently, he said.

Along with trout, recent Game and Fish surveys have shown a strong presence of largemouth bass in Watson Lake.

In a September 2011 sampling, Game and Fish used an electric current to stun 393 total fish in Watson. About 285 of the total were largemouth bass, while 71 were golden shiner, 22 were green sunfish, eight were yellow bullheads, and six were black crappie Smith said the lake's largemouth bass and crappie populations reproduce on their own, and have not been stocked in years.

In wet years, the city opens the "cross-cut ditch" that directs overflow water from Watson Lake to Willow Lake. While stocking does not occur at Willow, Smith said fish likely travel there from Watson through the ditch.

An April 2011 sampling in Willow Lake showed that Game and Fish had counted 21 largemouth bass, seven green sunfish, two black bullheads, and one bluegill.

The cross-cut ditch is opened only when Watson Lake is full to its "spillway elevation" and is overflowing, Smith said. This year, the ditch has been open for the past five or six weeks.

The new trail section begins at the main Watson Lake parking lot (off Highway 89), near the disc golf kiosk. It connects with the Watson Lake Loop Trail that the city completed this past year.

Work on the trail wrapped up three or four weeks ago, and the city installed the signs about a week ago.

An updated map of the Watson Lake Loop Trail is available online at

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@Coyote Contraire™ - You make cracks about hiking trails and fishing options being some sort of waste of money or not worth the effort. It's part of what makes the Prescott area more appealing to visitors and more enjoyable to locals. I suppose things would be much better if the lake had no trails, no gazeebos, no restrooms, limited parking and was still drained each summer for irragation - yeah, the good old days. And really is two bucks too much. I'm not sure what the return on the city's investment in the lakes is, but it's for sure conditions there are better than they were and is being enjoyed by a lot more people. I doubt Chris or the city ever thought this would be a huge money maker, but having places like this that the city can point to as positives might help encourage tourists or businesses to come here. Would you rather they do nothing? Do you have a better plan or do you just like to complain?

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: Coyote Contraire™

@ a bc,

Tourist spending certainly is not a "problem". Could be wrong, but I doubt it's really a boatload of revenue. Seems like so many towns and little cities in this country having no viable financial structure based on quality industries have decided their greatest hope lies in becoming a tourist "destination city". It's a little pathetic.

I actually met a group of Germans who had come to Prescott for the sole purpose of visiting the original "Potter's House" in Miller Valley. So I guess we could say our overload of religious outfits is a tourism bonanza, too.

But they all take a back seat to our highly-honored calf-tackling heritage. (I'm just glad we weren't a bunch of sheep ranchers. Their "rodeos" are embarrassing -- and highly illegal.)

If Watson still offered free parking, Saturday night rock n' roll dancing under a pavilion, a go-kart track, miniature golf and water skiing (as well as relatively "safe" fish) like a half-century back, I'd probably have a whole different attitude.

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: Don't go in the water smells bad too

I hope no one falls in... ADEQ has called all the so called 'lakes' in Prescott contaminated. Fishing? I wouldn't chance it.

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@ Captain Blueberry - "How much work did the trails guy actually do on this trail? I'm sure very little."
@Coyote Contraire™ - I doubt you even use the trails... This is a fantastic long term resource for this area. Great for locals and tourist. People actually come to this area to hike and bike form all over the state and country (I've met people from many other countries as well) . They stay in town and spend tourist dollars here. Why is this a problem?
Still two dollars to park in the park at Watson, but you can access the park and trails for free at several places like the overlook on Hwy 89. Why is it some locals look at this as some sort of bad thing for Prescott?

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: love the trails

Hate the tourists

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2013
Article comment by: @ captain blueberry

What an ignorant statement. The Over the Hill Gang has been an amazing presence for many years in our area, but without Chris Hosking's vision and passion this and many other trails that have seen fruition would still be a "hey we should build this trail" idea never realized.

Thank you Over the Hill Gang, other volunteers, and Chris Hosking for all the work you've done to make this a great place to live and recreate.

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Captain Blueberry

How much work did the trails guy actually do on this trail? I'm sure very little. Thank you volunteers for building this trail. Would not of happened with out you.

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Coyote Contraire™

Trails R Us

Thank goodness this new trail has been completed! With the resulting massive influx of hiking and fishing tourists our financial troubles will be over!

Has the toll charge for using the trail been determined yet? Prolly should be about twenty bucks.

Now if there were just some way of giving Watson more of a "rodeo" or "cowboy" theme...

. . . . . .

@ jeri smith-fornara,...Unfortunately you're right about Watson Lake representing "the best of what Prescott has to offer." We are SO hosed...


Also, when did the name change from "Lake Watson" to "Watson Lake"? Must've happened while I was gone during the '80s or '90s, huh?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: A wonderful trail. A beautiful rock festooned lake.

But do we dare eat any fish taken from Watson Lake?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: jeri smith-fornara

Thanks to the Courier and Cindy for bringing us this appropriate Easter story. Watson Lake and its environs represent the best of what Prescott has to offer. A wonderful local resource.

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