Year Round Travertine Waterfalls Restored!
After driving for about eleven hours I get to Childs, Arizona; right in the middle of BFE.
As it gets near 10 oíclock (PM) the guy Iím meeting to run the lower section of Fossil Creek finally shows.
After a slight jeering and a few bowls, we get prepped for the next day. Mike an I have been wanting to explore
the lower run of Fossil Creek since we found out that full flows had been returned to the creekís main channel.
Fossil Creek has had some special history in Arizona. Back in the day (around 1910), some engineers got together
and built a hydroelectric plant in Childs, which sits at the bottom of the Verde Valley (some may recognize the
area from Easy Rider the movie). Fossil Creek itself is an anomaly to say the least. The main feeder to this creek
is a travertine spring that discharges an amazing 43-48 cfs year round. I know, I know; 43 cfs? Seems timid, but
there are some GREAT drops! (If your into hydrology youíll know that travertine = waterfalls).
Anyway, back to the history: The engineers built a diversion dam just below the springs that forced the flow into a
flume that maintained the elevation from the source; the flume then carried the flow down to generators at Childs
which then used the head to produce hydro-power for the mining towns in the area (obviously, this was back in the day).
So, after a long debate that lasted ten years (beginning in the 90's) SRP finally pulled its claim on Fossil
Creekís water. It seems that Fossil Creek is worth more as a recreational resource in a state that has lost over
90% of its perennial streams: What took them so long? In 2005 that natural flow was allowed back into the main
channel and the entire creek flows 14 miles to the Verde River.
There are three distinct sections to this stream; the upper, middle and lower. All sections vary in geology and
travertine deposition, both of which alter the type of rapids you will encounter on this gem. The lower is full of
boulder garden sieves that have formed because of the loose conglomerate. You will be disappointed with the baseflow
of 43 cfs in the lower (unless youíre there for the scenery which is noteworthy on its own). The middle is where itís
at Ė granite - gradient over 220ft/mile - high travertine deposition rates (that means slides and waterfalls of
various sizes) - and water of the upmost quality (when you get there youíll know what I mean). The upper is sweet
too, but it needs some more overland H2O from runoff. Oh yeah, the diversion dam is scheduled to come down in 2009.
Once down, the natural flow will create another clean waterfall in the creek, that Iím guestimating at around
40-45ft. The run is class IV at normal flows. To get to the middle just head to Strawberry, AZ, and find
Fossil Springs RD.
Once in the canyon, you have two options for running the upper; either walk up the trail along the creek from
Irving or, leave shuttle and drive back up the same road to the Fossil Springs trailhead. The middle needs only one
car, simply park at Irving and walk up to the falls with an 8ft slide into a 20 vert. The lower is the most strenuous
to run; longer shuttle and a long grueling walk out. The pictures that I have included are only a few of the drops
of this spectacular creek. By the way, this Fossil Creek is being considered as a Wild and Scenic waterway;
that means donít fuck it up! I am relaying this info to all yakers in the hope that it will benefit the watershed.
If you go, pack it out; donít shit in the creek like some of the other morons Iíve heard of in CO; and uphold a
stewardship ethic while you are there. This is only one of a handful of travertine streams in the U.S. with
protected species of fish. DONíT FUCK IT UP. Oh yeah, enjoy.