Photo by Steve Ayres
THE NEW lagoons include a handicap-accessible fishing pier.
Park Manager Les Bovee hosted a group of speakers that included State Representative Tom O’Halleran and District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis. The speakers addressed the impact the improvements, and the park in general, will have on the Verde Valley.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park has recently seen $3.5 million spent on improvements. Along with the two new lagoons, the park has added 82 more camping spaces bringing the total to 150 RV sites with both electric power and drinking water and relined to old lagoon to control water loss.
The two new lagoons have increased the total lake surface to over 20 acres. Although inner tubes and other non-Coast Guard approved inflatable devises are not permitted, all three lagoons permit the use of most non-motorized watercraft.
Arizona Game and Fish stocked the old 3.7-acre lagoon with 30,000 trout last year. They have been stocking about 3,500 trout every other week in the new lagoons, but plan on ceasing the stocking for a few months so the ponds can settle out. Next year they plan on stocking bass and catfish.
The new lagoons feature wheelchair accessible, cantilevered fishing platforms, new ramadas and a fish cleaning station. Many of the recent additions to the park have been made with the handicapped in mind including campsites, trails and access to birding areas.
Within the next 12 months, the park plans on adding four modern shower and restroom buildings along with “camping cabins.”
Ranger Max Castillo, who was recognized for his dedication to the river by O’Halleran, said that the new lagoon, along with some recent land additions to the Verde River Greenway would be a substantial addition to the riparian habitat.
The Verde River Greenway, when completed, will run from Tuzigoot to Bridgeport and provide a protected corridor and walkway along the riverbank.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park was originally owned by the Ireys family. The park supposedly got its name from their children. After looking at several prospective places to build a ranch the children said they wanted the one where they had seen the dead horse.
In 1973, the Ireys family sold the ranch to the State of Arizona for one third of its assessed value, for the purpose of creating a park. One of the stipulations in the sale was that the park would retain the name given to it by the Ireys’ children.
The park opened to the public in 1977 and now features fishing, canoeing, camping, birding, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking and picnicking.