Verde River - Wild & Scenic Stretch

The Verde River is a unique and important resource in Arizona. In a desert state where free-flowing perennial water is rare, the verdant oasis of the Verde River provides a lush and refreshing contrast to the arid uplands through which it flows. The Verde River and its riparian corridor is also a vital resource for wildlife in central Arizona, particularly for native fish and birds. Several threatened and endangered species occur along the river, including the Northern Mexican garter snake, and Narrow-headed garter snake, and endangered native fish species such as razorback sucker, Colorado pike minnow, and spikedace. Breeding bird densities in some mature cottonwood and willow stands along the Verde River have exceeded one thousand pairs per 100 acres. This is the highest avian density ever recorded in North America.

The Verde River was the first Wild and Scenic designation in Arizona. One of the Verde River’s tributaries, Fossil Creek, was designated soon afterwards. They are the only recognized Wild and Scenic rivers in the state. The Verde River Wild & Scenic stretch runs through the Mazatzal and Cedar Bench Wilderness  Areas south of Camp Verde, Arizona. The Mazatzal Wilderness Area was designated in 1938 and is one of the oldest wilderness areas in the nation. It spans 250,000 acres, making it also among the largest wilderness areas in the Southwest, and includes 31 miles of the Verde River. 

Beasley Flat River Access Point (RAP) is the first public river access point along the Wild & Scenic stretch of the Verde River. Boating below Beasley Flat should only be attempted by experienced whitewater boaters as there are dangerous areas and rapids rating up to Class IV, and during flooding events, Class V. Vegetative growth along the river channel can create hazardous strainers, and during low flows, rocks and obstacles can be dangerous to boaters. However, if visitors have sufficient skill and experience, it can be an exciting multi-day excursion down a remote and beautiful stretch of the Verde River.

The Wild & Scenic stretch of the Verde River is typically run in inflatable kayaks and rafts. It is possible to run the river in a whitewater canoe, but much more difficult and risky. Boater should also be aware that, due to the wilderness nature of this stretch of river, it is highly isolated with limited to no cell service, few access points, and no developed amenities. 

All safety precautions should be adhered to in order to avoid having small problems becoming large ones due to the remote nature of the area. Personal flotation devices and helmets are a must, along with safety and repair equipment for boats, rescue lines, and first aid kits. For multi-day trips, boaters are required to bring fire pans and portable toilets. During colder months, it is recommended that boaters wear full or partial wetsuits. Plan in advance and be prepared. The Verde River Wild & Scenic paddle guide provided by the USFS shows the location of rapids, including instructions on where to scout and how to safely navigate the river. River access points, trails, and camping areas are also shown.

 

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Location

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Latitude: 34.473432 Longitude: -111.800937 Elevation: 2950 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Susan Culp

Best Access and Parking Areas

The recommended river access points for boating the Wild & Scenic stretch of the Verde River are Beasley Flat RAP as the put-in. Beasley Flat can be accessed off Highway 260. Coming from the I-17, turn onto Oasis Road, and then make a right onto Salt Mine Road. Follow for 8 miles to where the paved road makes a hard left to the Camp Verde Acres Access Road. Follow this road through the subdivision until the paved portion ends. At the stop sign, turn left – following signage to Beasley Flat river access point.

Boaters can then take out after a two-day trip at Gap Creek RAP, a primitive site which is located off an isolated stretch of Forest Service Road. However, the hike out from the Verde River to the Gap Creek site parking area is approximately a half-mile. Portaging larger boats and equipment can be arduous.  See the Verde River Wild & Scenic map for directions on how to reach Gap Creek RAP by vehicle, as well as the locations of camping areas along the Verde River between Beasley Flat and downstream RAPs.

For a three-day excursion from Beasley Flat, boaters can also take out at Childs RAP, which is more developed, with restrooms, picnic areas, and a boat launch. 

Below Childs RAP, the Verde River becomes more hazardous, with dangerous strainers, and boating is not recommended. Also, as boaters approach the major reservoirs along the Verde – Horseshoe Reservoir and Bartlett Lake – paddling can become exhausting over the flat water stretches against strong headwinds. 

 

Eco-Friendly Notes

Visitors to the Verde River are encouraged to practice “Leave No Trace” ethics when enjoying the Verde River. As more people discover and enjoy the Verde, we all have a stake in making sure the river stays healthy, continues to provide important habitat for wildlife, and remains an enjoyable, beautiful place for current and future generations to cherish.

ADA Accessibility Notes

Beasley Flat RAP includes facilities that are wheelchair accessible, including the restrooms, ramadas and picnic areas. However, below Beasley Flat, all of the camping areas, take-outs and RAPs are quite primitive and undeveloped due to the wilderness nature of the area, and wheelchair accessibility is limited until one reaches Horseshoe Reservoir.

Pet Friendly Notes

Most areas along the Verde River are pet-friendly. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6-feet or confined to a vehicle or kennel while visiting the Prescott National Forest.  Please remember to clean up after your pet, as water quality can be impacted by pet waste. Be sure to leave the Verde River clean and healthy for others to enjoy as well!

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