Kayak West Clear Creek

How to kayak Clear Creek Reservoir in Winslow, AZ

The Eagles song “Take it Easy” made Winslow a famous little tourist city, located right off the original Route 66. But there is more to Winslow than standin’ on the corner.

Most visitors overlook the Clear Creek Reservoir which is in fact located right in Winslow! It provides great fishing, boating, swimming, and kayaking opportunities.

In this post I’m going to cover how you can get out on the water by kayaking Clear Creek. Rentals, locations, petroglyphs, and all. Let’s go!

5/28/23 Update: The log jam that was blocking the canyon has now been fully removed!

Kayak Clear Creek.

The Reservoir is located in Winslow, AZ. I know, surprising right?

It is about a 10 minute drive from downtown Winslow to the parking area and docks. From Phoenix it is roughly a 3 hour drive which makes this feasible for a day trip!

McHood Park is located right where you need to go. If you type it into your Google Maps it’ll take you right to it. There is a $7 day use fee which can be paid via card at the self pay machine.

McHood Park has picnic tables with Ramada’s as well as trash cans, but I will worn you it is a bit run down. Don’t be surprised if you see trash laying around and rocks with graffiti on them. Once you’re out on the water and paddle past the mess, it all becomes worth it, I promise. So don’t run away just yet.

*Disclaimer: the below links may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through my links I provide (at no extra cost to you). Please see my disclosure for more info.

Kayaking Clear Creek Reservoir.

You can always use your own kayaks, but if you don’t have any, or just don’t want to deal with the hassle, you’re in luck.

Clear Creek Rentals makes getting out on the water super easy! You can rent any of their water equipment and it’ll be delivered right to the water-

1. Kayak (Kid sizes available)
2. SUP
3. Canoe
4. Tubes

**Each rental comes with the necessary life jacket and paddle (if required).

They even pick it up for you when you’re done! This was super helpful for us because we didn’t have to worry about tying the kayaks to the top of my Jeep.

I appreciate small local businesses like Clear Creek Rentals because without them we wouldn’t have been able to kayak.

You can visit their website to schedule your adventure or give them a call. And Don’t forget to tell Mike I say hi!

Now that we have the rentals we can go through some tips. Overall, kayaking Clear Creek Reservoir is safe, as long as you stay prepared and aware!

Below are a few things I like to suggest:

  • Begin early! Getting an early start will allow you to beat the families that like to post up along the rocky banks as well as any afternoon storms that will roll through.
  • Listen for speeding boats through the canyon. Most boats are respectful of slowing down so they don’t create rough waters for you. However, if they can’t see you then they will speed and the water can get very choppy. Keep an ear open at all times for your own safety.
  • Keep an open mind. At the beginning of the adventure there is a lot of graffiti on the walls as well as some trash. Once you get deeper into the canyon, though, I promise it does get better!
  • A waterproof phone pouch is a must for any water adventure. It’ll protect your phone so you can bring it along and take pictures of the petroglyphs and awesome views.
  • Waterproof shoes will keep your feet aired out and easy to dry when they get wet. I wore my Crocs on this trip since there was no hiking, but I usually wear my Chaco’s. It is all about preference.
  • Plenty of H2O! I suggest at least 1-2 liters of water for this kayaking trip. I always fill up my water reservoir and keep it in my pack with me. Some people may not want a reservoir for kayaking and opt to bring water bottles instead. Whatever works for you as long as you keep hydrated!
  • Sun protection! This means sunscreen, a hat, and/or sunglasses. This canyon still gets good sun so the potential of getting burnt is high.
  • Snacks! My favorite protein bars to take along on my adventures are Rise Bars. They have gluten free and vegan options. They are full of protein, real ingredients, and stay soft!
  • You’ll want to still bring a bag to put your things in. I always take my normal Osprey Hiking Pack since everything I need is usually in there already.
Kayaking Clear Creek in Winslow.

Where To Begin Your Adventure

The adventure down Clear Creek Reservoir begins at McHood Park. This small park sits right on the edge of the water- all you have to do is pay the $7 fee and park.

Clear Creek Rentals met us here and dropped off our kayaks and gear for us. We were on the water within minutes!

The reservoir is fed by Clear Creek and drains to the Little Colorado River. To your right will be the open lake which you can explore, but if you want to travel down the canyon you’ll want to go left, heading under the bridge.

We headed left under the bridge because I was bound and determined to find the petroglyphs along the canyon wall. The views are also better down this way!

In the beginning there was some trash and a lot of graffiti on the rocks. Once we made it past the graffiti, though, the canyon walls grew taller and things cleared up.

It was a beautiful morning out- the sun was shining and the water was calm because the boaters weren’t out yet. We paddled through the canyon, keeping our eyes peeled for the petroglyphs.

Find The Petroglyphs!

I had almost given up searching for the petroglyphs. I wanted to find them so bad that my eyes were playing tricks with me!

We initially kayaked past them, missing them completely. It wasn’t until we decided to turn around and head back that I asked a local who was anchored nearby.

He was kind enough to tell me where they were and I found them instantly! They’re located above eye level, but not too high, on the canyon wall.

As you’re kayaking away from McHood Park they will be on your right side just over 2 miles in.

You can copy the approximate GPS coordinates below for the petroglyphs so you don’t miss them!

(34.95045, -110.65604)

Where Do You End Up?

How far you can travel down the canyon will depend upon the water level. The higher the water, the further you’ll be able to go.

When we kayaked Clear Creek Reservoir the water level was higher than normal. We explored 2.2 miles deep before we decided to turn back due to dark skies and a storm rolling in.

We never made it to the end, so I can’t tell you if there is anything worth traveling all the way for. A group of kayakers heading back told us it went on for a couple more miles and didn’t mention anything of significance.

Looking for more things to do in Winslow? Check out BEST things to do when visiting Winslow, Arizona

Kayak Clear Creek in Winslow.

The views kept getting better and better the deeper we paddled, though, so feel free to paddle as far as you’d like for more views or a tougher workout!

Once we made it back to McHood Park we called Clear Creek Rentals for our pick up. They were already headed our way to drop off other kayakers, so we didn’t have to wait at all!

Kayak Clear Creek.

Pictures just don’t do this place justice. When I was out on the water I was blown away after every turn. My favorite part- seeing the petroglyphs along the canyon walls!

If you find yourself near Winslow, or wanting to kayak a new area in Arizona, I highly suggest kayaking Clear Creek Reservoir! Don’t forget to schedule your adventure with Clear Creek Rentals ahead of time, they’re happy to help get you out on the water. Happy paddling!

As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.

More Arizona water activities:


27 thoughts on “How to kayak Clear Creek Reservoir in Winslow, AZ

  1. Kristin says:

    Would it be feasible to float this on tubes? We are visiting next year and I’m trying to decide what I think would best fit our family.

    • Kara says:

      Hi Kristin! I don’t feel like this canyon is suitable for floating down in tubes. There are plenty of boats that zip by and there aren’t really areas to easily reach shore should something happen to a tube. You could however probably tube in the lake portion right by McHood Park. If you’re looking for tubing check out the Salt River Tubing just outside of Phoenix!

  2. Cheri Breeman says:

    As of April 26 2023 there is a huge log jam blocking the canyon at about 1.3 miles in before getting to the petroglyphs. Too big to get over or around.

    • Kara says:

      Wow! Thank you for reporting this back to my post, Cheri. That is a huge bummer and I apologize you weren’t able to kayak down the canyon. I’ve reached out to my contact in Winslow to see if they know anything about the jam and future plans on freeing it up.

    • Kara says:

      Hi Cheri! I’ve heard back from my contact and they said the city has dedicated a day to break up and remove the log jam. Apparently they’re already making progress. Not sure when it will 100% be passable, but thinking in a couple weeks at the latest.

      • Carley Nelson says:

        Hi there! Is there any update on whether or not this log jam is cleared out? Hoping to do this tomorrow! Thank you so much for all of the info.

        • Kara says:

          Hi Carley! Just wanted to let you know I’ve received your comment and reached out to Mike at Clear Creek Rentals to see if he knows. I’ll comment back if I hear word 🙂

        • Kara says:

          Hi Carley. I’m sure it is too late now, but just wanted to check back and let you know that the log jam has been fully removed!

  3. Boat Cleaner says:

    Wow! That’s a fantastic place to kayak. As a kayak, boating, and anything water-related enthusiast, this is definitely a must-go destination. Thanks for sharing

  4. Livia says:

    This looks like so much fun! My husband and I have been getting into boating recently and we will definitely add this to our list for when we are out west. The petroglyphs are AMAZING!!!

    • Kara says:

      Oh boating through this canyon would be SO fun! We were slightly jealous we weren’t on boats 😛 Hope you get to visit it one day, and thanks for reading!

    • Kara says:

      Hi Jenny! Thanks for reading. I’d say this is a good kayak excursion for beginners too. The water is typically calm and you don’t have to go that far. Just simply turn around when you’d like to 🙂 It was a nice and easy, relaxing paddle

  5. Mary J Tarrant says:

    Hi Kara,
    My two friends and I regularly kayak the lakes around Prescott, AZ and went to visit Emerald Cove on the Colorado River last year. We’re ready to try something different this year and are looking at Clear Creek Reservoir, however, we can’t get there until the first week of October. You recommend going early in the morning but I think it might be cold at that time of year so we were thinking we’d go in the afternoon to catch whatever warmth we could find. Do you have any experience of the weather in October there?


    • Kara says:

      Hi Mary!
      Sounds like you and your friends are quite adventurous- I love it 🙂
      Although I don’t have experience in Winslow during October, the research on weather tells me October is the wettest month of the year. I always suggest beginning adventures early, but of course that can be subjective to time of year, or some may prefer an evening paddle! I don’t see any issue in starting later during October since, yes, it typically only warms up to 70-80 degrees during the day. The only thing I’d suggest is to watch the weather incase of storms and play your launch time by ear. Luckily it is an easy canyon to kayak and you only have to go as far as you’re comfortable with. I hope you make the trip and it goes smoothly for you!

  6. Melanie says:

    Being able to kayak down a canyon like this would be the coolest experience! And I love being able to find petroglyphs when we are out exploring and on adventures!! So fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.