Fossil Springs Arizona Oasis

Fossil Springs Arizona Oasis

Fossil Springs hiking

The Hike

Distance  to the Old Fossil Creek Dam via Flume Trail: 8 miles

Elevation change: 1280 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: Allow 2-3 hours each way  time to swim and explore the falls.

Water: No potable water available.  Water can be filtered from the creek.

 

The Drive

From Phoenix: 

Travel north on 1-17 to Camp Verde.  Head east on AZ Highway 260 for about 7 miles to a well-marked sign for Fossil Springs Road (FS road 708).  Proceed 16 miles on rough dirt road to the Irving Flume 

Vehicle: 

High clearance vehicle recommended.  Road may be impassable during wet weather. Car possible when conditions are dry.  

 

Seasons

Spring, Summer and Fall

 

Camping

Camping is free.  The sites are mostly pullouts along the road.  Dispersed camping along the FS road 708 

 

Camping is allowed downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge if your camp is at least 100 feet from the edge of the creek.  Camping is also allowed upstream of the Old Fossil Creek Dam 

 

Camping is prohibited within a quarter mile either side of Fossil Creek from the Old Fossil Creek Dam downstream to Fossil Creek Bridge

 

Map of area and current regulations from USDA.gov:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5426007.pdf

 

Why this hike?

Fossil Creek marks the true definition of what an asis is meant to be.  This dazzling riparian springfed creek is made possible by a group of springs that pump 72degree crystal clear water to the surface at a rate of 20,000 gallons per minute.  

 

This wide and steep canyon produces paradise at the edge of the Colorado Plateau 

near the Mogollon Rim.  This is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the state of Arizona.  The native desert shrubs and cacti are joined by more than 30 species of trees and serve as a retreat for abundant wildlife.  

The area hosts many recreational activities including hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, star gazing and of course the ever important solitude.

 

Themade this oasis one of the most unique and possibly the most abundant spring systems in the state of Arizona.

 

On The Trail

I arrived  my campsite  hours before the sun rested for the evening over the shoulders of the mountains in the Coconino National Forest.  It left enough time to explore the surrounding creeks under the Fossil Springs Bridge and  view  the cotton candy skies that make Arizona one of the best places in the world to view a sunset.

A night of rest in the five billion star hotel that hosted some brilliant star gazing opportunities allowed for a leisurely start to the morning before heading out on the Flume trail.

Nine a.m. was a perfect time to begin the trek to the Old Fossil Creek Dam.  The flume trail begins with an immediate crossing of the creek to the west side of the water.  It continues up a slope along the rocky old flume road.  You keep trekking along this arid high desert trail that  panoramic views from 600 feet above the canyon.  This route faces south and with temperatures in the summer reaching above 90 degrees it is ideal to visit in the spring or fall.  The summer months bring massive amounts of people and can cause closures due to the crowds.  With the water at 72 degrees it is perfectly slated for a springtime adventure.

 

There are several opportunities to take refuge in the shade offered by the wise old sycamores and box elders.  The sun is warm enough to keep you constantly thinking about the pools this riparian oasis has to offer below.  When you have that last mile to trek and you begin to constantly wipe the sweat from your brow you get a glorious glimpse of the gem below waiting for you as a bounty.  

 

Once you drop down onto the shaded shoulders of the creek there are small travertine dams and falls all along the creek babbling and encouraging you to take a dip into the mineral laden water.  

 

chools of chub swimming in the ponds along with the endangered Chiricahua leopard frogs and canyon tree frogs leaping into the water  an example of how it should be done. 

 

Once you arrive at the Old Fossil Creek Dam you can spend all afternoon jumping into the many pools marveling at the butterflies, damselflies and birds relaxing in the sun on a slab of rock swimming or enjoying the soothing sounds of the many 

falls that  all along the creek.  

At some point you have to leave this oasis to its permanent inhabitants and thank them for allowing you to visit then tackle the task of the four-mile hike back to the bumpy road that leads to the hot asphalt streets of civilization.  

Keep in mind during this dirt filled and reality stricken trek back that there is one last chance to splash around in this terrific sanctuary at the creek crossing where you began this tour.

 

There are many other incredible sights and trails in this wilderness  he maximum camping allowed is 14 days.  Take some time and visit the area for a day or a week just be sure you leave no trace when you do.

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