Mini-Adventure along the Hot Verde

Arizona summers are hot, hot, hot! – Fortunately, communities in Northern Arizona’s Verde Valley find solace in the cool currents of the Verde River.

Whether swimming, fishing or paddling, being close to the water and under the cooling shelter of the shady riverside trees provides a spot of reprieve from the heat and an abundance of summer fun!

In early July, American Rivers’ Fay Augustyn and I were lucky enough to visit the sublime Verde Valley and explore really unique, off-the-beaten-path destination. Guided by Susan, our resident outreach coordinator, we hooked up for a day outside with local partner Bob Rothrock, President of Verde Valley Land Preservation, to show us first-hand the amazing asset that the Verde River is to the Valley, and discover how it adds so much to the state of Arizona and the greater Colorado River Basin. Not only is the Verde an important natural, cultural, historical, and economic resource to the immediate area, but it also is one of the last perennial streams in Arizona and a mecca for recreation in the northern part of the state.

Bob and Susan led us on a unique (and sweltering!) excursion that ended with a cooling dip in the Verde. After a short hike through a stunning, tight little canyon, we came upon the banks of the river – lined with towering Cottonwoods casting their shady relief over our intrepid little party. We were lucky enough to escape the Arizona sun by taking a dip in one of our local partner’s “top secret” Verde River swimming holes. I’d never been on this stretch of river, and it was a great way to experience it on a day that easily topped 100 degrees. But the temperatures didn’t seem to bother the several bird species we saw as we leisurely soaked with the slow moving current – and with lizards darting about and a pair of dragonflies buzzing above, one could easily get the sense of being surrounded by a bustling community of nature. A true oasis in a scorching, July landscape, this secluded canyon reminded us of the special little niches of life that exist and thrive in these harsh environments, if we simply give them a chance.

Our mini-adventure was such a great reminder about why the Verde and other desert rivers are so important, and what an amazing retreat they provide to not only local residents and tourists but also a wide variety of wildlife. We will be collaborating with local partners and other interested community members in the coming year about how to continue to appreciate and enjoy this truly unique and exceptionally valuable area of Arizona – it would be great if you could join us for the journey!

Photo of the Verde River by Susan Culp

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