East Verde, Arizona, US
US Route 87 to Verde River confluence
||III-V+ (for normal flows)
As teh riverheads out from AZ87 the stream becoms remote and enters the Mazatzal Wildernes Area.
There is a poorly maintained trail and expert boaters who made this run claim there were unrunnable
Access: From Payson: Take AZ87 north 6 miles to the East Verde Bridge, or drive 12 miles on FR 406
to the trailhead at the Mazatzal Wilderness boundry. FR 209 leaving AZ87 at mile marker 261.5 also
provides access to this stretch.
Takeout: Take Bloody Basi exit from I-17, follow FR 269 fro 32 miles to Sheep Bridge
Forming near SH 99 in Gila County due east of the Verde River is the East Verde River, which flows
to the confluence near the Town of Childs in the middle of nowhere. This run of about 34 miles
includes numerous Class IV to V+ rapids and drops that test the skills of expert whitewater
kayakers. The river flows under SH 87 about half way through the run, then on through Tonto
National Forest a few miles north of, and perpendicular to, Tonto Creek, another great whitewater
run in Arizona. Water in the river sources mainly from snowmelt runoff in the area of the forest
northeast of Phoenix. Small gorges and waterfall drops characterize the East Verde River making it
much more difficult than the mainstream into which it flows.
The surrounding area is very remote, and few people will be seen (most of them will be driving by
on SH 99 near the put-in, or on the SH 87 crossing.) This run is definitely off the beaten path,
though paddlers who enjoy creek boating will love this stream when it flows. Its very limited
season is usually in April through June if there was sufficient snowpack over the preceding winter.
Always check flows on the USGS gauge near Childs and the Verde River confluence before departing
for this hairboat run. Be prepared to cover a lot of kayak miles between access points. There are
no easy roads separating short runs on the East Verde River.
The East Verde is the Mr. Hyde to the Verde River's Dr. Jekyl. It has some easy Class I to III
whitewater, but the big drops are rated Class IV to V+, possibly escalating to V+ in high water
conditions (which are very rare.) Its big drops consist of small gorges and waterfalls amid
constricting boulders and dead-fallen trees, with plenty of places to pin and/or wrap a boat. The
general remoteness of the area necessitates that paddlers have expert level whitewater kayaking and
swiftwater rescue skills, along with First Aid training. Getting outside help is a slow,
time-consuming process. Most of the drops can be scouted, but some are difficult to see in advance,
so quick reflexes and accurate decision-making are paramount in importance on this run. The water
temperature is very cold, so wearing wetsuits or drysuits with a base layer is recommended to
The East Verde River offers expert whitewater kayakers the opportunity to experience some big drops
and difficult, technical maneuvers in central Arizona without having to drive to Colorado or
California to get their kicks. The Catch-22 is in finding the river in navigable flow conditions
and being able to secure permission from rangers in Tonto National Forest at the same time. The
river has a fickle season from about April through June in years when there was sufficient snowpack
in the upper elevations of the forest surrounding the drainage area of the river. However, when it
flows the East Verde is a Class IV to V+ run with beautiful waterfalls, small gorges and boulder
garden rapids interspersed with dead-fallen trees just to make it interesting. This river is not
well suited for canoes and rafts. It is only about 100 miles from Phoenix, but allow at least 2-2.5
hours of drive time to get there - not all roads in remote areas of Arizona are friendly toward
vehicles. Take a camera if you can secure it in a bumpproof, waterproof case, because the East
Verde is as beautiful as it is challenging.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2005-06-14 12:27:43