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Fossil Springs. Photo by Jason Williams.

“Call it grace: that I could spend a day here, filling my heart with wildness.”
– Melissa Sevigny, describing Fossil Creek in Mythical River

Emerald River Gem at Risk

Comments were submitted January 27, 2017

Read the joint comments of Sierra Club and Arizona Wilderness Coalition here.

Fossil Creek is a special place in Arizona, a restoration success story, and a treasure of the Mogollon Rim. Near Camp Verde, Arizona, Fossil Creek traverses two wilderness areas – the Fossil Spring and Mazatzal Wilderness areas – and spans both the Coconino and Tonto National Forests. The river is home to rare and protected plants and animals, including Common black hawks, otter, and beaver. It is nationally recognized as a designated Wild and Scenic River and has a significance beyond the presence of life-sustaining water.

Fossil Creek has hundreds of pools, hot springs, and waterfalls made of light colored rock, called travertine, deposited by its calcium carbonate-rich mineral water. The river is one of the largest stone travertine systems on the continent. It is also one of Arizona's few rivers with completely native fish, and the site of the first decommissioned dam in Arizona. Fossil Creek became well known to recreationists after its publicity as one of the largest successful efforts in the West to restore a stream to native aquatic species.

In her book Mythical River, Melissa Sevigny writes that "Arizonans saved Fossil Creek from exploitation only to lose it to love. [...] Humans now leave an imprint far beyond the places we can reach by car or foot. Yet Fossil Creek gave me hope that we could learn, against all odds, how to make that imprint a beautiful one."

Increasing visitor demand (which could potentially reach 1700 people a day), and damage in the form of human trash and sewage, threatens the balance of preserving Wild and Scenic qualities at Fossil Creek now and in the future. The Forest Service is addressing this issue with several proposed alternatives to regulate and further develop recreation at Fossil Creek.

Take action now!

Watch for future opportunties to comment.

Key Points to include in your comments:


1. Fossil Creek is a uniquely special river in Arizona.

2. Wild and Scenic designation mandates preservation of the river’s “Outstandingly Remarkable Values,” water quality and free-flowing nature.

3. Motorized access should not be increased. Motorized access expands human impacts, serves as a vector for invasive species, can contribute to increased erosion and siltation, and is contrary to preservation of the “ORVs” of Fish and Aquatic Resources, Wildlife, Water, and Quiet Recreation

4. The unique and special values of this river call for greater preservation efforts as reflected in Alternatives C (Non-motorized Experience) and B (Enhanced Protections). The proposed expansion of motorized use and recreation access, as reflected in the Alternative E (Proposed Action – Long-term Adaptive Management) is not in the best interest of this river, and threatens the values for which this was designated a Wild and Scenic River.

5. And add your personal experience – if you have enjoyed Fossil Creek, describe your great experience, and ask that the incredible values of this river be preserved and not degraded.

Learn more:

Official website: Resources and Alternatives of the Fossil Creek Comprehensive River Management Plan

KNAU story: New Rules Confront Visitor Demand at Arizona’s Fossil Creek

KNAU story: Proposed Fossil Creek Management Plan Open for Public Comment

Wild and Scenic Rivers Resource Center


Thank you for your support of our wild lands and waters in Arizona.


-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement