Roper Lake State Park - Arizona

US National Parks and Monuments Travel Guide: US-Parks.com

Description

After a long day of driving or hiking, the natural hot springs at Roper Lake State Park are inviting and invigorating. Enjoy desert vegetation, an accessible fishing dock, and stunning views of Mount Graham. Roper Lake is stocked with Largemouth bass and Rainbow trout; it’s a great place for kids to catch their first fish. Boats are limited to small electric motors, creating ideal conditions for a sail board or a canoe. Enjoy five miles of trails in the park and nearby Dankworth Pond. Take advantage of excellent birdwatching and glimpse Gamble’s quail and heron. The park’s camping cabins offer an easy, fun camping experience.

Roper Lake has 30 lake surface acres, a boat ramp, natural stone hot tub, a swimming beach, a day use island with picnic tables and grills, camping cabins, and campgrounds. Reservations are available for camping cabins and select campsites.

Facilities

Visitor Center

The Roper Lake Visitor Center is open year round. It features a gift shop, local area information, Junior Ranger programs, and restrooms

Restrooms

Roper Lake State Park has modern, handicap accessible restrooms in the Visitor Center. There are also 2 restroom buildings in the campground.

Gift Shop

The Gift Shop, located in the Visitor Center, has books, clothing, children’s toys, flora and fauna guides, fishing equipment and bait.

Group: Day Use Areas

Island Group Ramada: Large grassy area, near swimming beach, includes BBQ grills and water spigots, no electricity. Maximum Group Size: 30 people. Restrictions: NO fishing in swimming areas, no bottle containers, and no vehicles in day use area. Please leash dogs. Bring wagon or other device to haul picnic items. The walk to the Gazebo is about 150 yards. Hours: 6 am – 10 pm. Group Use Fees: $25 reservation fee in addition to per vehicle entrance fees.

East Mesa Group Ramada: Large Group Ramada with picnic tables, BBQ grills, water spigots, and electric outlets. Parking for 20 cars. Overlooks the lake. Group Use Fees: $25 reservation fee in addition to per vehicle entrance fees.

Group: Camping Sites

Gila Group Area Campground: 15 campsites surrounding a large group Ramada with BBQ grills, large fire ring, and picnic tables. No electric in this area. Water is available. There is a 10-vehicle minimum to reserve the group area. $25.00 reservation fee in addition to camping fees applied per vehicle per night.

Camping and RV Sites

Hacienda Campground: 20 sites with water & electric (20/30 amp). Each site includes fire rings and picnic tables. Hacienda campground has a bathroom with hot showers near entrance of campground. Most sites will accommodate a vehicle length of up to 45 feet and are a mix of pull through and back-in sites.

Cottonwood Campground: 25 sites with water & electric hookup sites (20/30/50 amp). Each site includes fire rings, picnic tables, and a small shade Ramada. Cottonwood campground has a bathroom with hot showers. Most sites will accommodate a vehicle length of up to 45 feet and are back-in only.

Gila Campground: The Gila campground offers 8 cabins, 5 non-electric sites and a 14 site group camp area. All non-electric sites include fire rings and picnic tables. Water is available at most sites.

Camping Cabins

Eight cabins line the lake at Roper Lake State Park offering a plethora of recreational opportunities. Cabins at Roper Lake are variably furnished with bunk beds with mattresses and/or full size beds with mattress. The cabins are outfitted with electricity and air-conditioning/heating. Open flame as produced by candles and stove burners are not permitted in the cabins. Picnic tables and charcoal grills make for a well-equipped outdoor setting. Restrooms and showers are within walking distance. Cabins are available year-round.

Dump Station

The park has a sewage dump station. The dump station is only available to registered campers.

Showers

Roper Lake has two shower buildings located in the campgrounds. These buildings are handicap accessible and have hot running water. There is no extra fee to use the showers for registered campers. They are open year-round.

Picnic Areas/Shelters

There are several picnic areas throughout the park near the fishing and swimming areas. Most of these areas include a picnic table, BBQ grill and a shade Ramada.

Hiking Trails

Five miles of trails in the park let you stretch your muscles and view the wildlife.

The Mariah Mesa Nature Trail is .75 miles and has interruptive signage along the way. The rest of the trails in the park are paths that connect the campgrounds and day-use areas together.

Fishing

Roper Lake has Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, catfish, and Rainbow trout. The park has a boat ramp and a handicap accessible fishing dock. Gas motors are not allowed to be operated on the lake. Fishing is not allowed in the swimming area.

A valid Arizona fishing license is required for anglers fourteen and older. Licensing information is available online at Arizona Game & Fish, or purchase a fishing license at a local dealer.

Swimming

The park has a swimming area with a sandy beach. No lifeguard on duty. Swimming is at your own risk.

Boat Ramp

The park has a boat ramp and parking for boat trailers. Gas motors are not allowed to be operated on the lake. The park does not rent watercraft.

Non-Motorized Watercraft

Non-Motorized Watercraft may launch at the boat ramp.

Wildlife Viewing

Roper Lake is an excellent place for bird watching. Species commonly seen are Gamble’s Quail, Redwing Blackbird, Yellow headed Blackbird, Great horned owl, Cardinal, flycatchers, Kingfisher, Mallard duck, Ruddy duck, Grebes, Egrets, Herons, and Mergansers.

Mammals commonly seen are bobcats, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes.

Science

Ecology Overview

Roper Lake State Park is located 6 miles south of Safford in Graham County in southeast Arizona. In 1974, under a management agreement with Arizona Game and Fish Commission, Arizona State Parks opened Roper Lake State Park to facilitate outdoor activities including hiking, camping, swimming, and fishing. Dankworth Pond was purchased by State Parks in 1975 and is managed as fishing “lake”. Roper Lake is comprised of a 30 surface acre lake and Dankworth Pond is comprised of a 15 surface acre lake. Dankworth Pond is located 3 miles south of Roper Lake. The Roper Lake-Dankworth Pond complex totals just over 338 acres including 20 acres of leased Bureau of Land Management property adjoining Dankworth Pond. Elevation at Roper Lake is 3,130 feet.

The Roper Lake-Dankworth Pond complex is bounded by a mix of agricultural land and Chihuahuan Desert Scrub. Characteristic or representative shrub species of the Chihuahuan Desert Scrub include Cresosotebush, Tarbush, Mesquite, Agave and Ocotillo. There is only one “endemic” plant species called lechugilla. The Chihuahuan Desert has a great diversity of wildlife species stemming from the riparian habitats, ephemeral streams, lakes, and sub-surface water aquifer.

Roper Lake’s hot spring flows through a man made structure and then out of a pipe and into a wetland containing two large, cattail encircled pools before entering the lake approximately 800 feet downstream.

Roper Lake-Dankworth Pond complex is home to 5 species of amphibians, 1 turtle species, 9 lizard species, 10 species of snakes, 28 species of dragon and damselflies, and over 60 species of birds. Common mammal species such as collared peccary, desert cottontail, grey fox, and mule deer, raccoon, and coyote are present within park boundaries.

Native habitats, endangered species and plant community composition and diversity are impacted by the occurrence of less desirable native and non-native (also known as invasive) plant and animal species in Arizona. Problem non-native invasive species, due to their potential to invade an area and cause adverse ecological impacts found at Roper Lake–Dankworth Pond include Saltcedar, Russian Olive, Bermuda grass, Mosquitofish, and Green sunfish. Cattail is a problem native invasive species, due to its potential to spread rapidly closing open water, reducing or eliminating wildlife habitat, reducing plant and animal species diversity, and decreasing water level stabilization.

History

For a number of years Graham County had been working with its legislators to have a State Park in their county. In 1972, HB 2150 authorized the acquisition of Roper Lake as a State Park. The bill also included authorization to construct a lake and appropriated $150,000 for the construction of a 100 surface acre lake in Graham County to be operated as a State Park. Senator Ed Sawyer, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the amendment to the bill.

Park’s staff worked closely with Graham County officials, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Bureau of Land Management to identify and determine the feasibility of creating a water-based recreation facility in the vicinity of Safford.

On July 28, 1972, a Preliminary Engineering Feasibility Report was completed by the Game and Fish Department and submitted to the Park’s Board. The findings and conclusions on the sites examined were not promising. The next alternative examined in cooperation with the Game and Fish Department was the potential for a large lake on the Dankworth property two miles south of Roper Lake. The analysis of this site showed that a large lake was not feasible. After the investigation of other sites, the construction of a 100 surface acre lake was determined not to be feasible from an economic or engineering standpoint.

The best alternative appeared to be the management of Roper Lake by State Parks and perhaps the future acquisition of the Dankworth site. Roper Lake is located approximately 6 miles south of Safford and consists of a 32-acre lake. The main part of the Park, located around Roper Lake, was developed in the early 1960’s as a private recreation area. The lake and the property were sold to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in 1969. The other unit, Dankworth Pond, has a 15-acre surface lake located about 3 miles south of the main Park. It was operated as a private catfish fishing lake before acquisition by State Parks in 1975.

State Parks began negotiations with the Game and Fish Department to secure an acceptable agreement wherein State Parks would operate and manage Roper Lake. These negotiations resulted in a Management Agreement approved by both the Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission. On December 31, 1974, Roper Lake State Park became official. This Park opened to the public in March 1975 with Jeff Dexter as Park Manager. The park’s two units totalled 338 acres.

Contact

Roper Lake SP, 101 E. Roper Lake Road, Safford, AZ 85546

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