Fossil Creek


Fossil Creek along the FR502

Note: The road (FR 708) is closed between Fossil Springs Trailhead and the waterfall trailhead until further notice. See the Forest Orders page for information.

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.

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.

What Makes Fossil Creek Special?

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.

In 2009, Congress designated Fossil Creek as a Wild and Scenic River to protect the river's amazing attributes for years to come.  The Forest Service is mandated to develop a Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) that will analyze existing conditions and prescribe management designed to protect the area.

Fossil Creek has a number of Dilzhé’é (Western Apache) cultural sites. The Dilzhé’é lived along Fossil Creek for generations and several families consider this to be their homeland.

The icon on the Google Map is at the Fossil Creek Bridge.

Fossil Creek Slideshow: Some beautiful photos of Fossil Creek

Photos & Multimedia



Congestion on road to Fossil Creek Area

Because of traffic problems, occasionally the roads will be closed. Click on "Overview/Background" in the right column for  notice with photos about periodic road closures. For an up-to-date information recording, call the Fossil Creek Hotline at 928-226-4611.

At a Glance

Open Season: Year 'round
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns: Camp Verde, AZ and Strawberry, AZ
Restroom: Temporary portable toilets
Operated By: Red Rock Ranger District - 928-203-2900

General Information

General Notes:

Attractions: Trails for hiking and horseback riding, swimming holes, waterplay, unique rock formations, great scenery, wildlife viewing, lush riparian area



Fossil Creek is located 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. 

GPS - Bridge(Map): 34°23'39.6"N 111°37'48.1"W

From Camp Verde: From Interstate 17, exit 287, turn east on State Route 260 towards Payson and travel 10 miles. Between mile 228 and 229, Forest Road 708 (Fossil Creek Road) will intersect SR260 on the right, signed as Fossil Creek/Verde River. Travel 12 miles down this rough dirt road (high-clearance vehicles recommended) to the intersection with Forest Road 502.

  • For Day-Use Sites: Continue straight on FR708 to cross the bridge and find parking in the Tonto Bench, Irving, or Waterfall trailhead areas.  
  • For Camping: Continue straight on FR 708 to the Homestead area before you get to the bridge or turn right on FR502 for the Old Corral, Sally May, Purple Mountain, Mazatzal, or Stehr Lakebed dispersed camping areas.

NOTE: The road (FR 708) is partially closed until further notice:

  • From Strawberry, closed at Fossil Creek Trailhead: Use this route to access Fossil Springs Trail.
  • From Camp Verde, closed at Waterfall Trailhead: Use this route for creek day use areas, Flume Trail, and Waterfall Trail access.

Know your destination and plan your route carefully before heading to Fossil Springs and Creek.


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Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

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Camping & Cabins

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River and Stream Fishing

New Fishing Regulations for Fossil Creek!

Fishing is allowed seasonally, from the first Saturday in October through April 30 (starting Oct. 3, 2009). Fishing is allowed between the waterfall located approximately 1 mile above the Flume Trailhead parking lot along FS 708 and the downstream-most power line crossing (immediately below Sally May Wash). Catch-and-release only for roundtail chub.

Roundtail chub must be immediately released unharmed; no chub may be kept; artificial fly and lure only; single barbless hooks only.


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Nature Viewing

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