Sycamore Creek, Arizona, US
Headwaters to Verde River Confluence
||II-IV (for normal flows)
Forming in southern Cococino County southwest of Flagstaff is Sycamore Creek, a major tributary
to the Verde River. From its headwaters this Class II to IV stream flows south by southwest into
Yavapai County to its confluence just above Clarkdale and west of Sedona near Dead Horse Ranch
State Park. Snowmelt runoff from the Red Rocks area of Prescott National Forest is the primary
source for its late spring through early summer flow. The water is very cold, and daytime
temperatures will be mild to cold, even during the boatable season.
The area surrounding the river is a picture postcard image of tall forests, beautiful, red
mountains (most of Arizona is shades of brown) and big, blue skies. The river flows through a
tourist trap area at and around Sedona, but you will only know that from what you see on the
rides to and from the river, leaving behind all signs of civilization while you are paddling.
Sycamore Creek offers very limited access, and there are no campgrounds situated along this run,
but riverside camping may be allowed by rangers in Prescott National Forest. The river has a
starting elevation of about 7,000 feet msl, then drops nearly 1,000 feet over nearly 27 miles at
an average gradient of some 37 fpm. The water is swift-moving, and the river is narrow. Downed
trees and avalanche debris can ocasionally block the river or enhance the difficulty of drops. Be
sure to bring your camera, because you will want to take many photos of this very scenic and
gorgeous river valley in the mountains high above the desert floor.
Sycamore Creek has several serious Class III to IV drops consisting of large boulders, steep
descents (though for only a short drop) and occasional dead-fallen trees that make navigation
hazardous if not done with care and after careful observation. Scouting rapids and drops is
usually easy, but some of them require vigilance to recognize them before it is too late to take
a look. For the most part the river flows in straight lines with minor turns, but that is not
always the case. The gradient of about 37 fpm makes the water flow swiftly, so allow adequate
time to take out for scouting before getting swept into an unforgivable situation. The remoteness
of the area, cold water temperature and difficulty of getting medical assistance quickly combine
to make it necessary to exercise caution when running Sycamore Creek. Paddlers should have at
least strong advanced level whitewater kayak skills, along with swiftwater rescue and First Aid
training to safely boat this river. Canoes and rafts should not attempt runs on this river,
though short, rockered canoes with flotation paddled by advanced or expert level whitewater
boaters may be able to run it successfully if the water is not too high. Some portages may be
required, especially if running the river in a canoe.
Sycamore Creek is primarily a whitewater kayer stream that can occasionally be run by advanced or
expert whitewater canoeists in playboat canoes shorter than 13 feet and outfitted with flotation
and other whitewater apparatus (saddle, footpegs, thigh straps and kneeling pads.) It is a Class
II to IV stream with some decent waterfall drops and boulder garden rapids, some of which may be
clogged with dead-fall debris. Unfortunately, as with almost every Arizona river, this one flows
seldom, and only for a few short weeks in late spring and early summer, when snows melt in the
surrounding drainage basin. Scenery is spectacular, and you will want to photograph it getting to
the river, as well as while running it. The river is located very near Flagstaff, Sedona, the
Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks area, so there is plenty to see and do off the river, which flows
through Prescott National Forest. This area, where the Verde River system flows, is about the
most colorful and beautiful part of the State of Arizona.
Lat/longitude coordinates of the putin are a rough approximation, from online maps.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-10-31 14:26:17