Fossil Creek - 02. Classic Section

Fossil Creek, Arizona, US


02. Classic Section

Usual Difficulty III+(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 7 Miles

Falls on Fossil Creek

Falls on Fossil Creek
Photo of Mike Griffin by Dave Garrity taken 01/18/15 @ low runnable level

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-09507480 35 - 500 cfs III+(IV) 01h03m 46.2 cfs (running)

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.

Permit Information

Advance permits are required to park a vehicle within the Fossil Creek Permit Area from April 1 through October 1. During this season and dependent on availability, a maximum of six permits, per person is allowed (one permit = one day). Permits are made available one month ahead of time, on the first of the month.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-15 03:22:00


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Powerhouse FallsN/AAccess Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Powerhouse Falls (Class N/A)

An intermediate access point at Powerhouse Falls.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 23 2010 (3226 days ago)
canoist (151597)
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.
February 8 2010 (3270 days ago)
YaknAZ (150513)
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.
June 19 2009 (3503 days ago)
x (1)
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.
March 22 2009 (3592 days ago)
x (1)
From what I hear, this is NOT class III. Closer to class IV or IV+.
August 25 2008 (3802 days ago)
Kevin ColburnDetails
The USFS has closed the river for the 2008 fall and spring during the demolition of the Irving
power Plant. You can check out the details at:
July 31 2008 (3826 days ago)
x (1)
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!
June 29 2008 (3858 days ago)
x (1)
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.
July 25 2007 (4199 days ago)
Based on the description this is NOT a 14 mile run.