By Tom Kollenborn, 2000
Often we ask ourselves, what is there in a name? “Geronimo” was a common term used by airborne divisions as they jumped from aircraft during World War II. The term was accepted to mean a total defiance to danger and the origin of the name was the Apache Chief Geronimo.
He led his band of warriors against the United States Army from 1867-1886. Geronimo was outnumbered twenty to one and eventually surrendered to the Army at Skeleton Canyon in 1886, ending hostilities and creating a legacy.
The infamous Chirichuaha Apache war chief “Geronimo” has lent his name to many landmarks in Arizona. The name appears on landmarks in the Superstition Mountain area, including Geronimo Head and Geronimo Cave. Near the base of Superstition Mountain a street is named Geronimo.
The construction of the Mormon Flats Dam between 1923-1925 led to yet another interesting use of Geronimo’s name when the first tour boat used on Canyon Lake was named the S.S. Geronimo in 1925.
One of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona was formed with the completion of Mormon Flats Dam on January 12, 1925. The dam stood 225 feet above bedrock and was 25 feet thick at the base and 12 feet thick at the crest. The dam was 320 feet long and 160 feet about the streambed. Mormon Flats Dam required 44,000 cubic yards of concrete to complete and the dam was capable of impounding some 98,000 acre-feet of water. The lake filled rapidly during the late winter and summer of 1925.
Local businessman George Moody soon recognized the business potential as the beautiful lake rapidly filled just east of the Salt River Valley. Moody, with the help of Ben and Jess Cramer, built a launch capable of transporting fifty passengers and a crew of five.
The S.S. Geronimo was thirty-five feet long and had a ten-foot beam. It was powered with a thirty-five horsepower engine and could cruise at about fifteen miles per hour. The S.S. Geronimo was launched on October 3, 1925. The launching of the Geronimo required the building of a short rail system to get the launch from the road to the lake. This was the introduction of tour boats to Mormon Flats Lake, known today as Canyon Lake, and Moody was the man most responsible for changing the name.
The tradition of tour boats on Canyon Lake continues today with the Dolly Steamboat. Drive up the Apache Trail and enjoy the beauty of Canyon Lake, have lunch or dinner at the Lakeside Cantina, ride the Dolly Steamboat or rent a boat from the Canyon Lake Marina.
Whatever you do – enjoy the beauty of this desert lake created by man some seventy-five years ago. C.C. Cragin once said of Mormon Flats Lake, “What a beautiful paradise of stone and water.”