Arizona’s Wild and Scenic Verde River begs to be explored

Arizona’s Verde River is a unique and important resource. In a southwestern state where perennial flowing water is rare, the riparian oasis of the Verde River stands in stark contrast to the arid uplands through which it meanders.

Suspended view of Arizona's Verde River with towering canyon wall in background
Topography along Arizona’s Verde River varies from steep, rocky canyons from the river to plateaus dropping to wide floodplains, with the river a central feature.

Verde is the Spanish term for the color “green.”

Verde River was the first Wild and Scenic designation in Arizona. The Verde River Wild & Scenic stretch runs through the Mazatzal and Cedar Bench Wilderness Areas south of Camp Verde, Arizona. The river’s high-quality habitat supports the more than 50 threatened, endangered, sensitive, or special status fish and wildlife species.

Verde River flows past an opening in high grass along the bank
Vegetation along the Verde River varies from broad mesquite woodlands and cottonwood gallery forests to narrow bands of riparian willows, in contrast to the surrounding dry grassland and desert vegetation.
Verde River trickles over rocks
Seasonal flow varies greatly from shallow, still pools and slow water to high flow, seasonal rapids and waterfalls.

Popular activities on the Verde River:

  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • Photography

The Verde provides habitat for a diverse array of wildlife species and supports over 60% of the vertebrate species that inhabit the Coconino, Prescott and Tonto National Forests. There are bald eagle nest territories, migratory and possibly occupied habitat for southwestern and potential habitat for several listed species.

The outstandingly remarkable values of the Verde River are its scenic, fish and wildlife, and historic and cultural values.

Video: See why so many people love Arizona’s Verde River

The river corridor contains archaeological evidence of occupation and agricultural use and modification of the Verde River floodplain, terraces and hill slopes by people related to the Hohokam and Southern Sinagua cultural traditions over a period of at least 600 years.


The earliest hydroelectric power plant in the state of Arizona (now decommissioned) is located in the Verde corridor as is the remains of one of Arizona’s first tourist developments, the Verde Hot Springs Resort.

Major river access points:

  • Sycamore Canyon Road north of Clarkdale
  • White Bridge where State Highway 260 crosses the river east of Camp Verde
  • Beasley Flats via Forest Roads 574 and 529
  • Near Childs Power Plant via Forest Roads 708 and 502.

No permit is required for private parties to run the Verde River; however, with added freedom comes added responsibility. While the river may appear calm at river access points, large numbers of wrecked canoes removed from the river testify to the fact that it has its share of hazards. Plan ahead, be prepared and practice Leave-No-Trace ethics to leave the Verde just as you found it for those who come after you.


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