Fossil Creek Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP)

The Coconino and Tonto National Forests are pleased to announce the Final Record of Decision was signed on October 1, 2021. All documents pertaining to the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive River Management Plan are publicly available.

decorative - Fossil Creek location map

Fossil Creek’s abundant clear water flows year round, supporting magnificent fossil-like travertine rock formations and diverse native fish, plants, and animals. The nearly 17-mile-long river is located in central Arizona, within the Coconino and Tonto national forests, approximately 100 miles from Phoenix.

Through the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA), Congress designated Fossil Creek as a wild and scenic river in spring 2009 to protect its amazing attributes for years to come. This designation included 16.8 miles from the confluence of Sand Rock and Calf Pen canyons to the confluence with the Verde River. The Fossil Creek river corridor is divided into three segments—one 7.5-mile recreational segment and two wild segments, totaling 9.3 miles.

The Coconino and Tonto national forests have completed an Environmental Impact Statement and developed a long-term management plan to guide future management and protection of the Fossil Creek river corridor. Based on these documents a Draft Record of Decision ahs been published. The final decision approves a modified Alternative E, as described in the decision document. The alternative authorizes a number of site-specific improvements and amendments the Coconino and Tonto forest plans to protect and enhance the natural and cultural values and recreation experience. The final decision authorizes a recreation ecology-based approach for visitor use and is driven by monitoring and adaptive management. The final decision authorizes expanded opportunities for people to experience Fossil Creek by increasing user capacity and recreation site improvement over time based on monitoring results as discussed in Chapter 6 of the CRMP. Initial implementation of the decision will keep permitted visitor numbers as is under the current permit system. Visitor numbers may then be increased up to the capacity described in this decision if the following criteria are met:

  • A determination is made based on collaborative monitoring data assessment, professional judgment, and management observations that river values would continue to be protected with additional visitor use and the infrastructure necessary to support that use;
  • An ongoing capacity to conduct monitoring, assess monitoring data, and implement adaptive management actions is maintained; and
  • Facilities and infrastructure that are able to support higher amounts if use are established.

The final decision builds on the success of interim management that has been in place over the past several years by continuing the permit system. To learn the details of the final decision and review the supporting documents, please visit these links: