January 26, 2016

The Black River is located within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, which runs along the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains in east-central Arizona. It flows southwest through the White Mountains and forms the border between the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to the north, and the San Carlos Indian Reservation to the south. Upper reaches of the river, closer to the East Fork entail lush, grassy meadows, vegetative margins that are surrounded by Ponderosa pine forests.

The river offers backcountry adventurers a remote and rugged opportunity to experience some of the state’s best smallmouth bass fishing. The Apache Trout, Arizona’s state fish–one of only two native trout species in the state–can be found in the upstream portions of the river along the East Fork. The combination of cool water temperatures and diverse in-stream habitats (e.g. riffles, pools, and runs), provides these stealthy swimmers with critical stream habitat. In order to truly enjoy catching fish and experiencing clarity of mind, one needs to practice the art of fly fishing!

You may be wondering why it’s worth caring about such small rivers. Considering the fact that most rivers in North America represent smaller streams, they are the lifeblood of our larger rivers that we rely on for clean drinking water. For the Apache trout and smallmouth bass, the smaller tributaries provide critical habitat for their primary food sources such as aquatic insects and crayfish.

The Black River is one of many rivers that merge to feed the Salt River. Getting to the Black River may prove an adventure of itself. Four-wheel-drive is recommended. Remember to practice Leave No Trace when visiting. Make sure to get the appropriate permits for whichever Indian Reservation you plan to be in, and respect the rules of recreation on Indian Reservation lands. To learn more about this beautiful river, you may have to go see it for yourself in the Spring after all the snow melts away. Start planning your adventure by visiting the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests official page.

Featured photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, featuring the East Fork of the Black River, southwest of Alpine, AZ.

Anne Stahley is a Water Conservation Specialist with the City of Glendale’s Conservation & Sustainable Living Division, one of fifteen Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water saving advice and programs. Discover more water-worthy sites to visit across the state by checking out our Celebrate Arizona Water blogs.