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.
Visitors to the Verde Valley who are interested in kayaking or canoeing, or enjoying riverside recreation such as fishing, birdwatching, and picnicking, have many choices. Floating the stretch of the Verde River between Black Canyon River Access Point (RAP) and Bignotti Picnic Area and RAP is a great way to experience the Verde River if one doesn’t have time for a long paddle or day trip. This half-mile stretch of river is suitable for a fun paddle by novice or beginner boaters who do not have whitewater experience. Black Canyon and Bignotti are also popular fishing spots, where smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, and sunfish can be caught. There is also winter stocking of rainbow trout at the Bignotti site.
Paddling the River is a treat; however, conditions can vary greatly in relation to temperature, weather, water level, and other factors. All persons intending to run this river are responsible for personally assessing these conditions, as well as their own ability to cope with them. All recreational use of this type involves a degree of risk, and boaters are responsible for their own safety.
Best Access and Parking Areas
The recommended river access points for boating the Verde River through this stretch is Black Canyon RAP as the put-in, with boaters taking out at Bignotti Picnic Area downstream. This provides an enjoyable hour-long paddle for boaters.
Black Canyon RAP is located off Highway 260 between Cottonwood and the I-17. Follow the signage that indicates river access (with a boating symbol attached) on Highway 260 between Thousand Trails Road and Prairie Lane. The river access midway between these points will be for Black Canyon RAP. Turn onto Forest Service Road 9606J (where you will see signs for Black Canyon RAP) and follow the dirt road approximately one mile to the parking area. It is a short walk to the river’s edge.
Bignotti Picnic Area is also off Highway 260. Turn east on Thousand Trails Road, and take the first left (Forest Service Road 147A). Follow 1.5 miles to the parking area and river access. It is a steep, winding and rutted dirt road. The road can be hazardous when wet, and visitors are discouraged from driving at those times since it can damage the road and degrade the resources.
Boating downstream of Bignotti is not recommended due to agricultural diversions and other obstructions across the river, as well as a lack of river access points. The next public river access point after Bignotti is Black Bridge in Camp Verde, nearly 14 river miles downstream.
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
The river access points described in this nomination are rugged and somewhat primitive in their development and in facilities provided. The restroom at Black Bridge RAP is accessible to wheelchairs, but there are no improvements near the river’s edge. At Bignotti, the boat take-out area has no constructed facilities, but the picnic areas are wheelchair accessible.
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!