September 21, 2018

The upper Verde River originates in Yavapai County, near the town of Paulden, Arizona from a series of springs. It runs for more than 190 miles supporting a lush gallery forest consisting of dense groupings of cottonwoods and willows. The first 137 miles of the Verde River flow freely before reaching Horseshoe Reservoir. The heart of the river is the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area where a diverse array of wildlife live, including fish, birds, frogs, otters, raccoons, deer, bobcats, and javelina. Local beavers play a key role in supporting local wildlife by building beaver lodges and dams, which slow the flow of water, attracting more fish and plants. The beautiful natural environment also attracts local tourism.

There are ample opportunities to take advantage of all that the river has to offer. Anglers can catch a variety of fish, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, and catfish, and in the winter, the river is stocked with trout.

If you want to take a dip, swimming is allowed anywhere along the river, but note that you are swimming at your own risk; there are no lifeguards. You may prefer to take to the water in a non-motorized watercraft, such as a canoe. The river offers lots of twists and turns so always be on the lookout for fallen trees and other hazards around the bend. It’s also important to check stream levels as part of your trip planning, as water levels can change based on the time of year.

Bird watching enthusiasts are also in luck as Black Hawks nest in the summer and Great Blue Herons are seen year-round. In the winter, you might be lucky enough to spot a Southwestern Bald Eagle. Nearby Dead Horse Ranch State Park is also home to nearly 200 species of birds.

The Verde River is also a source of drinking water for many communities including Prescott, Chino Valley, Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, and many Native American Tribal lands. As a tributary of the Salt River, the water is also important to residents living in the Phoenix area, providing approximately 40 percent of the surface water that Salt River Project delivers to customers in the Phoenix metro area. Forty miles of the Verde River has been federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River, which helps to protect the river flow and natural environment.


Verde River Arizona

Photo by C. Williams

Additional articles about the Verde River: 

Are you looking for other great places to explore in Arizona? Check out all of our Celebrate AZ Water articles to choose your next adventure.

This photo by C. Williams is just one of over 1,000 submittals for our Spring 2014 Celebrate AZ Water Photo Contest. It provided a stunning opportunity to celebrate the importance and wonder of water in Arizona and to reflect on one of our region’s most precious resources.