Sycamore Creek - Headwaters to Verde River Confluence


Sycamore Creek, Arizona, US

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Headwaters to Verde River Confluence

Usual Difficulty II-IV (for normal flows)
Length 27 Miles
Avg. Gradient 37 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
SYCAMORE CREEK NEAR FORT MCDOWELL, AZ
usgs-09510200 200 - 10000 cfs II-IV 01h37m 0 cfs (too low)


River Description

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

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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