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Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 7 Miles
Flow Range 35 - 500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 44.8 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/15/2017 3:22 am

River Description

Fossil Creek is designated as a Wild and Scenic Area, and has restrictions for camping and fire restrictions. Because this area is being "loved to death" by visitors, the Coconino Nationa Forest Service has implemented a permit system for day-use access to the river corridor from April 1 through October 1.

For the majority of this run, you are alongside the trail or the road, should you need to quit early and walk out. Fossil Creek is the only navigable travertine waterway in the U.S., creating a truly unique section of whitewater. The travertine and limestone deposits create a fun low- water run unlike anything you’ve paddled before. Being a spring-fed creek with annual flows around 40cfs, this is a low volume “micro- creeking” destination, with narrow chutes and several 4-5ft drops or slides. This technical run requires advanced maneuvering/ edging around the unique travertine geology to avoid scraping up your boat/ you. If you do not have a solid roll, you may find this stretch too difficult.


To access this run from Camp Verde Arizona, head east on State Route 260 and turn onto Fossil Creek Road (Forest Road 708) which is a 14 mile dirt road that heads down to Fossil Creek. As you approach the junction of Forest Road 708 and 502 you will enter the Fossil Creek Permit Area (reservations required for parking April 1 - October 1 for any of the 9 day use parking area).

At the Forest Road Road 708/502 junction, turn left to head upstream toward the run. You will cross Fossil Creek and pass by the two take-out options as you head 2 miles upstream from the junction to the Waterfall Trail Parking area.

Put- In: Fossil Creek Waterfall

Waterfall Trail Parking (Lot 5) is considered the preferred parking permit for the run. The start of the run is at the Fossil Creek waterfall, a 20 ft drop in to a crystal clear pool. From the parking area you hike approximately 1.2 miles up the trail with your boat to the waterfall. If you wish to run the falls, you need to scramble up 50 ft with your boat, otherwise put in on the pool.

Take- Outs

Option 1: The Irving Flume Trailhead Day Use Area (aka Powerhouse Falls or Double Drop) is roughly the halfway marker for the run. You’ll recognize it from the old foundation/clearing on river right before the falls. There are plenty of spots to eddy out on either side to scout, but to end your run eddy out on river left. The parking for Irving (Lot 4) is approximately 100 ft from the creek via a maintained trail. If you parked your car at Waterfall Trail Parking area you can walk up to get it.

Option 2: Fossil Creek Bridge Day Use Area (Lot 2). This is the end of the classic run for Fossil Creek. Beyond this point you will go further from the road and have less river access points to stop. Due to the over-use of the area, there are now paths on either side just before the bridge and just after to hike up with your boat. You’ll need to hike up the steep bank with your boat to the road. From there you can hike approximately 1.6 miles up the road to retrieve your car from the put-in assuming you don't have a shuttle with a separate parking permit for Fossil Creek Bridge.

Rapid Descriptions

Powerhouse Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

An intermediate access point at Powerhouse Falls.


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matt looze
9 years ago

I ran this yesterday from above the power house falls downto the bridge. Somekayakers ran the falls, but being in a canoe i portaged. The whitewater was constant, and very technical. one blade would make me rate it a III+ to a IV without hesitation. I ran into a lot of deadfall. BE CAREFULL! The drive there is sketchy, fossilcreek road goes through the drainage, and the Strawberry side is slightly faster and a lot cleaner.

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9 years ago

Jerry Lovett 2/6/10 Ran the classic section from the 20 footer (not a 15' like the description Say's) to the power house yesterday at double base flow, probably 100 CFS. Perfect level! A big flood cleaned up the one pin rock we used to avoid and made it a perfect III chute, it's a whole different creek now. This is a fun creek run all year but if you can catch it a high flow it's a blast. Look for about 130 CFS on the West Clear creek gauge.

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10 years ago

Well you might count the falls at a IV, but they are really easy. I would not say this is over a III+ though unless you are there on a monsoon flood. Fossil is one of my favorite places to kayak. It is very technical and just fun to play in.

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11 years ago

We talked to a Forest Service ranger and he said that they were going to close this creek off to kayakers soon. So here goes another public area that the government is going to restrict. Their reasoning is that kayakers damage the build up of mineral deposits in the river. Kayak this while you can. It is fun!

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11 years ago

I believe this is a 3 mile run if you go from the put in to the take out at the power plant. It is probably a 14 mile run if you go all the way to Verde river. It is a mega fun run though... except the 2 mile hike in. Scout each rapid for debrie and pinning rocks. There are 2 bad pinning places that I know of.

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12 years ago

Based on the description this is NOT a 14 mile run.

Gage Descriptions

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Take Out




Directions Description

Currently, the only access to Fossil Creek is from the Camp Verde side of the Fossil Creek Rd (The side from Strawberry has been closed indefinitely to poor road conditions).

***In bad weather or heavy rains, the Coconino Forest Service will close this road.

From Camp Verde:

Go east on 260 approximately 10miles from I17, and turn right on to Fossil Creek Rd. There will be a cattle guard and Forest Service billboard with information on Fossil Creek.

Fossil Creek road is a long and winding dirt road which can prove to be difficult when it rains. While a high clearance vehicle is not necessarily needed to drive this road, you’ll be more comfortable with a vehicle that has higher clearance/ awd/ 4x4 capabilities. Once you’ve dropped down in to the canyon valley, you’ll reach a fork in the dirt road; stay left. After a mile, you’ll reach a bridge crossing which is the typical take-out (there is not a parking lot here, but there are a few spots to stage one or two vehicles). Continue on the dirt road until it is blocked off, and you’ve arrived at the Waterfall Trailhead parking lot.

From the Waterfall Parking Lot:

You’ll hike with your gear/ boat up along the road passed the roadblocks about 1/2mi, then veer off left on to the trailhead (marked). You’ll continue along this trail for approximately 1mi, until you’ve reached the top Fossil Creek waterfall. Either scramble up to run the 20’ fall, or put-in in the pool below.

***  The hike to the put in is typically on a well maintained trail. While it does not have much for elevation gain/ loss, there are several sections where you must step up/ through travertine boulders/ formations.



No Accident Reports




article main photo

Comment Opportunity on Fossil Creek Management Plan (AZ)

Thomas O'Keefe

After several years of implementing interim management measures, the Coconino and Tonto National Forests are preparing a Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for Fossil Creek. The CRMP will provide detailed direction, implementation actions, and monitoring to protect and enhance river values. A preliminary comment opportunity is open through Friday January 27th (recently extended from January 13th) on alternatives the Forest Service is considering.


Thomas O'Keefe


Dannie Keil


Matt Muir


Kestrel Kunz


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1207140 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe logistics updated and enhanced
1205356 10/19/15 Dannie Keil
1205357 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe minor edits
1207141 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe edits to logistics
1207143 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe name edit
1194642 07/09/07 n/a n/a
1208044 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1207145 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe name edit