Sally Reichardt wrote to me in August 2022:
“Pena Blanc trip a week ago Sunday. We stopped in Nogales for a Subway sandwich to go without beer & chips. There are lots of picnic tables but there are also a few benches that offer a much better view of the lake. We chose the bench.Below the parking lot (not the side where we had our picnic), there are two handicapped parking spaces that make easy access to the fishing/sitting dock. There are also two large handicapped parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers. There are two fishing docks but one is down a dirt path. Pictures show both.If anyone wants to see the pretty green, they better head down there fast as it won’t last much longer.”
Pena Blanca Lake is a 45 acre reservoir in the Atascosa Mountans 18 miles north of Nogales, AZ. As you can see from Sally’s photos, the surrounding landscape is lush and verdant. At least it was when she took these photos in the Summer of 2022. When Ms. Karen and I were there several years ago, it was dry and brown. The lake offers fishing and boating year-round, a shoreline trail and beautiful scenery. There are 15 first-come, first-served campsites with a maximum vehicle length of 22 feet.
Anglers 10 years and older need a valid fishing license. Amenities include a paved boat launch, a floating fishing pier, picnic areas with charcoal grills, and vault toilets. The boat limit with motors is 10 horsepower. Dogs are permitted on leash. No drinking water is available. Bring your own boat or kayak or floatation device as there are no rentals here.
There is no designated swimming area and no lifeguards on duty. Note: the water in the lake may be contaminated with mercury.
Spring and fall are the best times of year for birding at Peña Blanca. Between March and May, migratory species including gray and zone-tailed hawks, summer tanagers, and broad-billed hummingbirds arrive to breed and nest. Many species of waterfowl arrive in fall and spend the winter months at the lake.
If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can enjoy a scenic drive from Pena Blanca Lake. Take Ruby Road west. It turns to dirt just west of the lake and continues for 25 miles through Sycamore Canyon north toward the ghost town of Ruby and on to Arivaca. Continue east from Arivaca to I-19 at Amado. . Allow 2–3 hours for the 55-mile loop, unless of course if you stop along the way to visit Ruby which deserves at least an hour stopover. Call ahead if you wish to visit Ruby. Drive with caution; watch for open-range cattle and lots of hunters during hunting season.