Seneca Lake, AZ

Seneca Lake, AZ - ghost town

Few experiences convey the history of Arizona like a visit to a ghost town, and these towns come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of history.

The popular image of an Arizona ghost town is usually that of an abandoned pioneer town or settlement, but the story of Seneca Lake is actually rooted in the 1970’s.


Where is Seneca Lake located?
1970’s plans for a trading post
Beautiful surroundings at Seneca Falls
Other attractions

Where is Seneca Lake Located?

It’s a fascinating story to be sure. The site of what used to be Seneca Lake, Arizona sits in between Globe and Salt River Canyon, and all that’s left it some houses with broken windows, marred by graffiti, along with an abandoned gas station.

Seneca Lake is actually situated on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, and because of its ideal location, it was once thought to be an ideal tourist destination. The idea was to attract highway traffic on Route 60 between the towns of Globe and Show Low.

1970’s plans for a trading post

With that end in mind, the tribe opened a trading post, a large restaurant and a campground on the proposed site in the early 1970s. There were also plans for a golf course, a motel with 80 units, and riding stables, along with proposals for future amenities.

The tribe laid out considerable cash to build these facilities, spending over $500K. The buildings that were opened were called Cinema Park, but it quickly became clear that the idea was basically a pipe dream that would be a financial disaster.

The tribe eventually forfeited on the loan, and the dream that was to be Seneca Lake quickly became a memory. Lenders took back the restaurant and the other buildings, and the site was abandoned. Some of the buildings are still in decent shape structurally, but they’re hardly usable, although there have been reports of people living in makeshift camps near the lake.

There was damage beyond that as well. A proposed lookout point with spectacular views of the Salt River Canyon was vandalized, and today nothing remains but a few vandalized buildings that have been ruined.

Beautiful surroundings at Seneca Falls

There were some positives, however. The jewel of the area is Seneca Falls, where water drops several hundred feet into a natural stone pool. The display is especially impressive when it rains, although rainfall in the area is generally sparse.

But Seneca Lake is still an attraction to some extent. There’s cold- and warm-water fishing for bass, sunfish, catfish and trout, along with fishing piers and a boat launch.

You’ll need a permit from the tribe to access them – the area is still patrolled by tribal police – but it’s a great trip that’s well worth the drive.

The elevation of the site is approximately 5,300 feet, so it’s a good spot to escape from the Arizona heat and experience cooler weather if you’re feeling the need to do that. There are still great views nearby in and around the lake, and the locals access them all the time.


Other attractions

The area does offer some attractions as well. The nearby Tonto National Forest is a genuine tourist attraction that’s a popular destination for thousands of travelers, and if you’re in the mood to experience a genuine ghost town Seneca Lake is an interesting choice.

3 thoughts on “Seneca Lake, AZ”

    1. You might be able to get one at the Sinclair gas station outside cibicue. If not there in Pine Top lakeside on the Apache reservation there are multiple places to get permits.

      1. There are many people living at Seneca Lake in tents. It’s a community now, and not a ghost town despite the abandoned buildings right next to the road. Permits are required to access the area.

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