Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 7 Miles
Flow Range 35 - 500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours ago 49 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 02/06/2020 2:11 am

River Description

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

Most of this run is alongside a foot trail or the road. 
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. A spring-fed creek with annual flows around 40 CFS, this low volume micro- creeking run holds narrow chutes and several 4 to  5 foot drops or slides. This technical run requires advanced maneuvering/ edging around the unique travertine geology to avoid scraping up your boat/ you.


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 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 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. There are travertine chunks in the landing, so swim your LZ.

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 overuse 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.

This sensitive ecozone requires your careful use and planning.

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
10 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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10 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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11 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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12 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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12 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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13 years ago

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

Gage Descriptions

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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




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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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Tonto National Forest Draft Plan Open for Public Comment (AZ)

Kestrel Kunz

The Tonto National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan for the first time since 1985. On December 13, 2019 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on March 12, 2020. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read on to hear about the public meetings that are happening this week!

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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.


Kestrel Kunz


Thomas O'Keefe


Craig Irwin


Dannie Keil


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213795 10/13/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1207140 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe logistics updated and enhanced
1214278 02/06/20 Craig Irwin updated description
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
1208044 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1207145 01/12/17 Thomas O'Keefe name edit
1205356 10/19/15 Dannie Keil
1194642 07/09/07 n/a n/a