Kayak the Verde River

A Gateway to River Adventure

In addition to its other attractions, Camp Verde is a gateway to adventures on the Verde River. The clear, wide, spring­fed waterway—the only federally designated “Wild land Scenic” river in Arizona—offers plenty of enjoyment for both novices and experienced river.

kayaking in sedona
I began my maiden kayaking voyage in a solo inflatable “duckie” under the watchful eye of Richard Lynch, owner of Verde River Kayaking/Sedona Adventure Outfitters & Guides. Lynch, who was a river guide for 16 years before starting his company, knows how to make people feel relaxed on the river. The put in was at Clear Creek, about 7 miles downstream from Camp Verde. Our destination was Beasley Flats, a National Forest Service Recreation Area, 3 miles away.

It was a balmy October day. The cottonwoods were beginning to turn golden and the nearly naked willow branches swayed in the wind. Brown­eyed Susans lined the grassy banks and red­winged black birds hid in the cattails, emerging en masse as we paddled by. (Some days it’s possible to see hawks, eagles and a great variety of other birds and wildlife.)

On the calm stretches of the Verde, there was time to watch the shimmering green water, to enjoy a stately blue heron sitting on the shore and to marvel at well­preserved Indian ruins in the surrounding white ash cliffs. To keep the paddling interesting, there were several class-one rapids, which Lynch helped me navigate.

The trip took nearly six hours—roundtrip from the boat house in Sedona, including a stopover for lunch.

While the Verde River can be floated almost any month of the year, its peak time is in the spring, when the water tends to be at its highest levels. Still, you can’t beat the ideal weather in the fall and winter and the welcome relief of cool water in the summer heat.

You don’t need a permit to run the river for your own enjoyment. For experienced kayakers, the thrill begins after Beasley Flats. On the 6­mile stretch to Gap Creek the rapids graduate to class 4 and 5 if the water levels are high. For helpful river annotations from Beardsley.

Flats to Sheeps Bridge, see “A Boater’s Guide to the Verde River.”

By: Sylvia Somerville