Sholtz Lake is a small reservoir located off Garland Prairie Road, south of Parks, AZ. The lake is managed by AZ Game and Fish as a bird refuge, and is NOT stocked for fishing. A kayak or canoe could be hauled in. Camping is not allowed within 1/4 mile of the lake.
Sholtz Lake is a birding paradise. The lake is shaped like a "T", with the north and south arms closed to people from Feb. 1 to Aug. 1 each year to allow a wide variety of birds to nest. Local lore says that the reservoir was first constructed in the early 1900's by the local farmers and ranchers as a permanent water source. The dam was reinforced in the past 10 years. The water level fluctuates with the snow runnoff and monsoon moisture. This year (2010) the water was free flowing into both the north and south arms in August!
A one mile long forest road (FR 62) leads directly to the parking area. There is a pit toilet here. A short walk up the hill and over the cowboy steps at the fence lead directly to the dam. At this point you can choose a clockwise or counter-clockwise trek. The trails are rough and not maintained. The clockwise trek to the south arm is very rocky, along the lakeshore and in the ponderosa pines and gambel oaks. The trek toward the north arm is through a level, grassy area. The trails disappear at the end of the arms. However, you can blaze your own trail around the top of the T, but it entails at least 2 fence crossings (the north arm fence has a barbed wire gate).
Cormorants and blue herons especially like to nest here, the herons in the tops of the very old ponderosa pines. The cormorants perch on snags in the lake, but are very wary of humans and will fly to the middle of the lake when they see you. Other birds that I've observed include bald eagles, osprey, cattle egrets, red-tailed hawks, Harris hawks, kestrels and possibly a black hawk. Smaller birds include juncos, meadowlarks, Stellar's jays, bluebirds, flickers, woodpeckers, sparrows and swifts. A variety of ducks also nest here.
Game animals that inhabit the area include elk, mule deer and the area's pronghorn antelope herd. As you drive around Garland Prairie, watch for the antelope on the open prairie, burros and raptors in the trees.
Local lore says that the reservoir was first constructed in the early 1900's by the local farmers and ranchers as a permanent water source. The dam was reinforced in the past 10 years. The water level fluctuates with the snow runnoff and monsoon moisture. This year (2010) the water was free flowing into both the north and south arms in August!
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.