I was recently in Clarkdale for a presentation about the Arizona Trail and my Gateway Community Program at the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum. It was a great event and I got to talk with many people from small towns across the state who are trying to bring in more tourists and economic development via trails.
After the first day of the conference, I visited the Cottonwood Farmer’s Market and met Jef and Ryan from South by Southwest Adventures. They run tours and rentals on the nearby Verde River. We got to talking about the Grand Canyon and they invited me to stop by the next day to check out the shop.
I had a break in the late morning and Jef and Ryan got me set up with everything I needed for a couple of hours on the Verde River. (I hadn’t packed any of my river gear, because I was in conference mode) We drove to the lower TAPCO access point and Ryan pointed out some of the spots I’d be passing and dropped me off with a phone number to call once I got to the Tuzigoot access point, 3.5 miles downstream.
I was thrilled to have some time to myself outdoors- I don’t get much of it when I’m working as a guide. It was in the low 90’s and the water temperature was a delightful 75 degrees. I paddled happily down the river and went through a little chute and another small rapid.
Much of this stretch is knee-deep, but a long, deep pool that Ryan pointed out on the drive up gave an opportunity to get out and float around.
I paddled to the Brewer’s Tunnel Diversion Dam. Here, you have to exit the river, portage to a small pool, paddle across, then get out and send your kayak down a boat slide and drag back to the channel. I didn’t see anyone on my whole trip except some friendly folks who happened to be at the portage and helped me with my boat. Great timing!
I entered a Quiet Zone and many of the houses that were tucked behind the grasses had hammocks or chairs to sit riverside. No one out on a Friday morning, though.
Willow Creek and Boulders rapids were a lot of fun and I saw a Great Blue Heron on a rock. I floated under the Tuzigoot Bridge and knew that my time had come to an end. Ryan was waiting on shore and we packed up and drove back into town. What a great way to spend a couple of hours! I returned to the conference rejuvenated, just in time for lunch.
I highly recommend this trip- South by Southwest Adventures also does tours of the Verde if you don’t feel comfortable heading off by yourself or want to learn more about the area.