This photo needs editing.
Difficulty III-V+
Length 34 Miles
Flow Range 200 - 20000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 11.6 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 07/15/2017 3:20 am

River Description

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 waterfalls.
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 prevent hypothermia.
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.

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

Gugae is an estimate

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2013-03-09 High Fatality Cold Water Read More



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Kestrel Kunz

In the ongoing saga of hydro dam developments proposed within striking distance of Grand Canyon National Park, American Whitewater is asking for help from the paddling community to stop a development that would impact the greater Grand Canyon area and its tributaries. Back in October 2019, we wrote an article outlining the proposal submitted by Phoenix-based hydroelectric company Pumped Hydro LLC to place two dams on the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River’s mighty Grand Canyon. This proposal was met with a large amount of pushback for the cultural impact on indigenous tribes, ecological impacts, and water use. To address these concerns, Pumped Hydro decided to file an alternative (yet equally problematic) proposal for a hydro development on Big Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Big Canyon project permit application has been accepted into the Federal Energy Regulation Commission’s (FERC) registrar, initiating a public comment period on the project ending August 1 and we need members of the paddling community to step up and make their voices heard!

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Analysis of a Vertical Pin Fatality

Charlie Walbridge

On March 9, 2013 Dr. Jim McComb died after his kayak pinned vertically in a small ledge on Arizona's East Verde River. His friend Dr. Bill Langhoffer recently forwarded a detailed description of the pin along with several photos which may be useful to any paddler running difficult whitewater. Photo Caption:  This view is from the top of the drop as we found the boat weeks later once the water had receded from 500 to 20 cfs, and had transformed from muddy to clear water. The piton rock can be seen (#2).  This small rock at the base of the fall is what stopped his boat. The left slant in the rock at the base of the fall can be noticed (#4), with the boat still leaning in that direction. Once his boat sunk in the water it hit that slant and rotated the boat to the left.Jim was now pinned in the slot between the 2 rocks (Red/White and Black) on the river left (#5).The approximate water line at 500 cfs was drawn into the photo, water line.


Kestrel Kunz


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1208041 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1189910 06/14/05 n/a n/a