Fossil Creek

National Wild and Scenic River

Status: Open

This area is Open




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 type of limestone 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.

View Fossil Creek & Fossil Springs Wilderness photo gallery [Flickr]

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