The Verde River Greenway

Enjoying an Arizona Treasure: The Verde River Greenway

The Verde River Greenway State Natural Area sparkles and sings—sparkles with one of Arizona’s last free-flowing rivers and sings with its large population of nesting and migrating birds. More than 100 species of nesting and migrating song birds, raptors and waterfowl have been sighted along the greenway, with additional sightings in adjoining Dead Horse Ranch State Park. In addition to being a bird-watching mecca, the Verde River Greenway is a wonderland that changes with the seasons to the delight of nature lovers.

cottonwood verde valley

Currently, the greenway is a 480-acre, six-mile long riparian area, which encompasses the Fremont Cottonwood/Gooding Willow Riparian Gallery forest, one of five remaining stands in Arizona and one of 20 such stands in the world. In addition to birds, the thick stands of cottonwoods and shrubs along the banks of the beautiful, winding Verde River also support nearly 20 threatened or endangered species, including river otter and lowland leopard frogs. Greenway visitors can also get a glimpse of coyotes, raccoons, mule deer, beavers and other animals.

The Verde River Greenway is located at an elevation of 3,300 feet in an area that has mild temperatures year-round and gets very little rainfall (less than 12 inches a year). This makes the greenway a recreational delight for hiking, fishing and picnicking, and for those who want to experience the Verde River in a canoe or kayak along the Verde River Paddle Trail, which stretches 6.5 miles from the Tuzigoot Bridge to the Highway 89A Bridgeport Bridge. There are several access points for river paddlers: at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood as well as undeveloped access points at the Tuzigoot Bridge in Clarkdale and the 89A Bridge in Bridgeport.

With laudable foresight, in 1986 the State of Arizona purchased the area for the greenway between the Tuzigoot and Bridgeport Bridges. Max Castillo, coordinator of the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area, is committed to protecting this precious riparian corridor so it can stay as healthy and viable as possible. “We are all here because of the river. It runs through all the communities of the Verde Valley”

Some special programs on the greenway include:

Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival: held the last weekend in April, featuring many activities, programs and excursions as well as an exhibition area

Verde River Days: held annually the last Saturday in September, featuring hands-on activities, games, exhibits, entertainment, and food booths

Verde River Clean-up: held annually in September

Weekly ranger-led hikes: led in fall, spring and winter

Interpretive programs are also available upon request.


Verde River Greenway is located off 10th Street in Cottonwood. Access is through Dead Horse Ranch State Park, which is open every day but Christmas. The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle with up to 4 people and $2 per walk-ins and bikers. Camping is available in Dead Horse Ranch State Park for $12 or $19 with hookups. The Verde River Greenway also connects to the Jail Trail located in Old Town Cottonwood, next to the Old Town Association’s Visitor Center at 1101 Main St.

Verde River Greenway News Flash:

Max Castillo, coordinator of the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area, announced that soon the six-mile ribbon of the Verde River riparian area known as the Verde River Greenway will be much longer. The goal is to extend the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area from Tuzigoot Bridge in Clarkdale to Beasley Flats in Camp Verde—35 river miles in all. The first purchase toward this extension was made in Camp Verde in the middle of May 2007. “I am beside myself with excitement,” says Castillo, who reports that the 41 acres in Camp Verde are pristine with elk and other wildlife.