Splashdown in Camp Verde
Camp Verde’s legendary swimming holesKnow what they call a desert with water? If you said oasis, you’d be close. The correct answer is Camp Verde.
That’s the delicious and refreshing secret of Camp Verde. While the town sits on a valley floor classified as Lower Sonoran Desert, it is probably the wettest hunk of desert in the entire state.
Camp Verde lies along 18 miles of the Verde River. Streams such as Wet Beaver Creek, Fossil Creek and West Clear Creek, tumble from the high country of the Colorado Plateau and throw a lush embrace around the community.
Such diversified ecosystems have burnished Camp Verde’s credentials as a base camp for adventure. Yet not all adventures demand laser-like focus and surging adrenaline. Some adventures are languid, old-fashioned, and best of all, completely free. Like the search for swimming holes.
For desert dwellers, swimming holes conjure a special magic; the perfect escape when the mercury punches through the top of the thermometer with a blood-red fist. Air conditioning may keep us sane but water and shade set us free.
Here are just a few of Camp Verde’s legendary swimming holes:West Clear Creek plunges through a steepwalled canyon filled with cascading waterfalls and hidden pools. Crowds flock to the Bullpen, the most spectacular and accessible spot. Yet with a sandy beach, plenty of rock ledges for diving and an awesome rope swing, there’s plenty of fun to go around for everybody.
Climbing higher into the canyon leads to more pools and more seclusion. There’s usually a few folks gathered at Fat Bradley, a deep slice of water formed where the creek bends against a rock wall. But keep traveling and you’re bound to find a private pool or shady picnic spot all to yourself.
Another idyllic little swimming hole can be found beside the cottonwooddraped Clear Creek Campground.
Wet Beaver Creek is a desert paradise, a ribbon of green slicing through open country. The Bell Trail parallels the creek with a network of social pathways leading down to sheltered pools. Hike three miles back into the wilderness to reach the big kahuna of swimming holes in these parts, The Crack.
Just upstream from where the trail crosses the creek, deep water carves an exquisite 70-foot long channel between narrow sandstone walls. A triangle of rock positioned over the sweet spot makes a great diving platform but more fearless souls just heave themselves in from atop the 25-foot high walls. After the sunblasted hike, trying to stay out of the inviting oasis requires almost superhuman strength. Don’t fight it.
Camp Verde offers lots more sunny pools and shady canopies but the joy of discovery is all part of the adventure. So what are you waiting for? Grab a towel and picnic basket and prepare to get wet.
For details on swimming holes, hiking trails and campgrounds contact the Red Rock Ranger District, (928) 282-4119.
What you need to know before you go:Swimming hole etiquette: These are fragile environments and with usage comes the responsibility of stewardship. Never bring glass containers. Pack out more than you pack in. Give everyone their space. Keep yourself safe.
How to get thereWest Clear Creek: From Camp Verde, travel east on Hwy. 260. Turn north on Forest Road 618 for 2 miles, then turn right on Forest Road 215. Drive to Bullpen Ranch trailhead and park at the locked gate.
Wet Beaver Creek: Located north of Camp Verde, on Forest Road 618, near the intersection of Arizona Highway 179 and Interstate 17. An excellent swimming hole for youngsters—a pool 50 feet by 30 feet, with a rope swing—can be found next to the Beaver Creek Campground, a quarter mile from the trailhead.
By: Roger Naylor