Tucked deep in a canyon roughly 15 miles from the nearest paved road, the cool, clear water of Fossil Creek gushes down falls, over rocks and through natural pools on it’s way to the Verde River.
If you followed the creek upstream to its source, you would arrive at Fossil Springs – a collection of openings in the earth from which more than 30 million gallons of mineral-rich water flow each day. The creek winds some 17 miles down a mind-blowing labyrinth of travertine structures before pouring into the Verde River. (Related: What is travertine?)
From 1908 to 2008, creek water was diverted from its natural course to generate power at a hydroelectric dam. In recent years, Fossil Creek has evolved into a popular destination for adventure seekers – especially in the warmest months of the year. Countless YouTube videos show people jumping off waterfalls, exploring underwater caves, and plunging into a unique swirling pool known as “toilet bowl”.
Although protected by legislation as a National Wild and Scenic River since 2009, signs of overuse are visible in the way of parking issues and waste that people leave behind. To help preserve Fossil Creek’s beauty, the U.S. Forest Service implemented a strict permit system in 2017. So far, the new controls seem to be thinning crowds and softening the impact of use.
Take a virtual walk along Fossil Creek: