Fossil Creek - Classic Section

Fossil Creek, Arizona, US


Classic Section

Usual Difficulty III+(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 14 Miles

Fossile Creek

Fossile Creek
Photo of Fossile Creek

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-09507480 35 - 500 cfs III+(IV) 00h54m 46 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 is implementing a permit system for spring 2016.

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.

Put- In: Fossil Creek Waterfall

The start of the run is at the Fossil Creek waterfall, a 20ft drop in to a crystal clear pool. If you wish to run the falls, you need to scramble up 50ft with your boat, otherwise put in on the pool.

Take- Outs

Option 1: Powerhouse Falls/ Double Drop Powerhouse/ 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. There is a parking lot approximately 100ft from the creek with a maintained trail.

Option 2: Bridge 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.

Permit Information

A permitting system is being put in place for the high traffic season starting Spring 2016. The Coconino National Forest Service is currently reviewing plans to find the best solution/ type of permitting.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-10-19 14:45:03


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

2010-03-23 11:10:43 (2074 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.

2010-02-08 01:30:36 (2117 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.

2009-06-19 07:06:50 (2351 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.

2009-03-22 06:14:13 (2440 days ago)
x (1)
From what I hear, this is NOT class III. Closer to class IV or IV+.

2008-08-25 03:23:09 (2649 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:

2008-07-31 11:58:33 (2674 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!

2008-06-29 07:35:27 (2706 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.

2007-07-25 01:23:06 (3046 days ago)
Based on the description this is NOT a 14 mile run.
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