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Photo: Codey Carter, Biological Science Technician, USFS

Press Release: McCain-Renzi Bill Protects Rare Arizona River Ecosystem

Legislation would give Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River status

Brad DeVries, American Rivers, 202-243-7023                             
Jason Williams, Arizona Wilderness
Coalition, 928-717-6076

Phoenix, Washington, D.C.—American Rivers and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition applauded Senator John McCain (R) and Representative Rick Renzi (R-Dist. 1) today for introducing a bill to protect Fossil Creek in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.  Senator Kyl (R) co-sponsored the legislation.

With the introduction of today’s legislation, Senator McCain and Rep. Renzi are the first members of Congress this year to meet American Rivers’ “40 x 40 Challenge,” a drive to designate 40 new National Wild and Scenic Rivers by the 40th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2008.

“Fossil Creek is a thing of beauty, with its picturesque scenery, lush riparian ecosystem, unique geological features, and deep iridescent blue pools and waterfalls,” Senator John McCain said.  “Fossil Creek is a unique Arizona treasure, and would benefit greatly from the protection and recognition offered through Wild and Scenic designation.” 

"Having seen Fossil Creek firsthand, I am amazed by its spectacular pools and cascades, its unique plant life, and its deep history, making it a vital treasure not only for Arizonans, but for all Americans," said Congressman Renzi.  "Today's action will ensure that one of Arizona's most precious natural jewels is enjoyed and preserved for generations to come.  I am delighted to join Senator McCain in introducing this legislation.”

American Rivers and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition are helping to sponsor the world premiere film “A River Reborn: The Restoration of Fossil Creek” in Phoenix on January 14th, with a celebratory reception and two film viewings. Tickets are available at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix. Click here for more details.  

Fossil Creek is a gem of the Arizona desert, often drawing comparisons to the better-known Havasu Falls.  This spring-fed stream contains unusually high levels of calcium, which creates uniquely fascinating formations, such as deep iridescent blue pools and waterfalls.  For roughly the past 100 years, this treasure was virtually dried out due to an upstream diversion dam. In 2005, Arizona Public Service (APS) decommissioned the dam and life returned to Fossil Creek.

“Even among all the natural wonders of Arizona, Fossil Creek stands out.  It’s right up there with some of the best desert rivers in the country,” said Quinn McKew, Associate Director for Wild Rivers programs at American Rivers.  “We call on the Congress to recognize this leadership and act swiftly to enact permanent protections for this amazing river.” 

Now that the water has been restored along the entire length of the stream, Fossil Creek will provide habitat for several very rare desert fish species, as well as a tremendous recreational resource for local residents and visitors.  The re-birth of Fossil Creek also helps to restore the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s hunting, gathering, and spiritual traditional sites in the watershed.  This combination of cultural,scenic, and ecological uniqueness makes Fossil Creek a true national treasure worthy of inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River System.

A Wild and Scenic river designation forever protects the free-flowing condition and outstanding values of our country's most precious rivers, primarily by prohibiting the construction of dams on the river. To qualify, a river must be free-flowing and must be deemed to have one or more "outstandingly remarkable" scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values. The protection ensures that current and future generations can continue to enjoy swimming, hunting, fishing, and other primitive recreational activities without the threat of a future dam destroying the river.  Only 168 rivers throughout the country have been designated: a stretch of the Verde River represents the only designated Wild and Scenic River to date in Arizona. 

“Senator McCain and Congressman Renzi’s staff took valuable time to visit Fossil Creek and worked diligently to safeguard this amazing place,” said Jason Williams, Central Mountains Regional Director with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “Ultimately it’s the sheer beauty and intrinsic value of Fossil Creek that inspired them to act on its behalf. That value will continue to inspire many future generations of Arizonans.”

Since the decommissioning of the Childs-Irving powerplant in 2005, a coalition of business interests, community members, sportsmen, conservationists, educators, and the Yavapai Apache have sought to protect this Arizona treasure for future generations. 

 “The introduction of today’s legislation is the result of a true community effort,” said McKew.  “Fossil Creek has given a lot to Arizona, and now Arizonans are returning the favor.”


Founded in 1973, American Rivers is a national non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy natural rivers for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife. American Rivers has over 65,000 supporters nationwide, with staff in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California, and Northwest regions.

The Arizona Wilderness Coalition works to permanently protect and restore Wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all citizens and to ensure that Arizona's native plants and animals have a lasting home in wild nature. Since 1979, we have done this by coordinating and conducting inventories, educating citizens about these lands, enlisting community support, and advocating for their lasting protection. Our offices are based in Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Flagstaff.



-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement