“hike the waterfall trail!”
Fossil Creek, one of two "Wild and Scenic" rivers in Arizona, seems to appear out of nowhere, gushing 20,000 gallons a minute out of a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a material called travertine. That rock-like substance encases whatever happens to fall into the streambed - forming the fossils for which the area is named. The Waterfall Trail on Fossil Creek is one of the most popular areas on the creek. The trail itself is one mile, but you'll have to hike about a quarter of a mile from either parking area to get to the trailhead. The parking lot is located a few hundred yards downhill from the entrance to the trail. Visitors must park in the lot and walk up the road to the beginning of the trail. The trail starts at the far end of a fence line that was put up to protect rare spring snails. The trail follows the hillside down to the creek and continues along it. It dead ends at the waterfall. Most people come to Fossil Creek to sunbathe, wade, hike and birdwatch. It's also a great place to take photographs. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the brittle desert that surrounds it. While you're here, keep an eye out for javelina. These collie dog-sized wild pigs are plentiful in the area. Fossil Creek is one of only two National Wild & Scenic rivers in Arizona and is fed by springs coming from the cliffs of the Mogollon Rim. Over 30 million gallons of water are discharged each day at a constant 70 °F. The high mineral content leaves travertine dams and deposits, giving rise to fossil-like features. In 2005, Arizona Public Service (APS) decommissioned the Fossil Creek Dam and Flume, restoring full flows to Fossil Creek. Fossil Creek is a rare riparian area within an otherwise arid landscape. Many plants and wildlife depend on Fossil Creek for habitat, including otters, beavers, leopard frogs, and common black hawks. Trails for hiking and horseback riding, swimming holes, waterplay, unique rock formations, great scenery, wildlife viewing, lush riparian area. About 30 miles southeast of Camp Verde or 86 miles south of Flagstaff off paved and graveled roads some of which are always steep and VERY rough and usually muddy after rains. The road from Strawberry is very narrow with extreme drop-offs (steep side slopes on both sides) and in some spots two vehicles cannot pass.
Advance permits are required to park a vehicle within the Fossil Creek Permit Area from April 1 through October 1. During this season and dependent on availability, a maximum of six permits, per person is allowed (one permit = one day). Permits are made available one month ahead of time, on the first of the month. For example, permits for the month of April will be available to reserve beginning March 1. The permit allows parking for one vehicle at one of nine designated parking lots. The maximum vehicle length is 22 feet. All persons listed on the permit must be accommodated inside the vehicle with a legal seatbelt on. The permit guarantees a parking space within the specified parking lot, but specific parking space assignments are not made. Parking spaces are occupied on a first-come, first-served basis.
Permits are not required from October 2 through March 31.
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