The wealth of the Verde Valley is untapped without a stop for the riparian wildlife of the Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the adjoining Verde River Greenway Natural Area.
The quirky name originated from the ranch name given by the Ireys family, who sold the land to the state to become a State Park.
The State Park embraces 423 acres with 10 miles of hiking trails, 150 campground sites and several picnic areas, along with 23 group camping sites and camping cabins as well as 100-RV parking sites and facilities. It's great for day use, too.
The park is popular for its abundant fishing. The lagoons are stocked with Channel Catfish in the warmer season. Fly-fishing the river and lagoons is increasingly popular with species including Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Bluegill, Crappie, and Trout.
The Park also offers trailhead access to the Dead Horse Trail System, located on adjacent Coconino National Forest land. The trail system includes hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails. A 15-mile shared use trail connects Dead Horse State Park and Red Rock State Park in Sedona.
Dead Horse Ranch is home to the annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, the “Birdy Verde,” held each April.
It offers about 70 field trips throughout the Verde Valley over a four-day event, many led by recognized birding experts. Another specialty event is Verde River Day at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, held in September to celebrate the protection of the river’s riparian habitat.
Bring your fishing pole. In addition to the Verde Rivers, the park has two large fishing lagoons.
There are cabins
The Verde River Greenway was created by former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt to protect the gracious Cottonwood stands lining the river and its riparian habitat, and one of the last free flowing Arizona waterways.
This Fremont Cottonwood & Gooding Willow Riparian Gallery Forest is one of five remaining stands in Arizona and one of 20 such stands in the world.
It is a natural greenway and does not include developed amenities, including restrooms. Arizona State Parks has continued to add land to the greenway, protecting access to the river and the towering Cottonwood stands. It now stretches between Clarkdale and Camp Verde.
For a detailed list of facilities see http://azstateparks.com/Parks/DEHO/. Contact: Ranger Station - (928) 634-5283• Where: 675 Dead Horse Ranch Road. Turn on N. 10th St off Main St in Cottonwood.
• Open: 365 days each year
• How Much: Entrance fee $7 per car (up to four adults); $3 individual or bicycle. Fees for camping, RV hookups and cabins additional