Wed, July 17

2011: Beaver Creek: Oak Creek minus the crowds

Beaver Creek offers an excellent established campground along side the stream and plenty of places to explore in the general vicinity.

Beaver Creek offers an excellent established campground along side the stream and plenty of places to explore in the general vicinity.

The first written description of the Verde Valley is an account of the discovery of Beaver Creek in 1583 by the Spanish conquistador Antonio Espejo.

After a rugged descent from the Mogollon Rim, Espejo’s chronicler Perez de Luxan wrote:

“We descended a slope so steep and dangerous that a mule belonging to Captain Espejo fell down and was dashed to pieces. We went down a ravine so bad and craggy that we descended with difficulty to a fine large river, which runs from northwest to southeast.

“The river is surrounded by an abundance of grapevines, many walnuts and other trees. It is a warm land and there are parrots (thick-billed parrots are believed to have once inhabited the Verde Valley). The land is warm rather than cold. This river we named El Rio de las Parras (The River of Grapevines).”

The name didn’t stick and the parrots went south. But Beaver Creek remains as beautiful as ever. It is where many locals go to cool off, while avoiding the crowds on Oak Creek.

Beaver Creek, or Wet Beaver Creek as it is formally known (there is a Dry Beaver Creek also) begins at almost 8,000 feet, draining the meadows atop the Mogollon Rim and collecting the waters that have cut a series of canyons coming off its side.

Gravity draws its flow south and west, down through the spectacular canyons of the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness and Brady Canyon, before emerging onto broad landscape just north of the community that bears its name.

There are several access points to the creek itself, but perhaps the most popular is the Bell Trail. It starts just outside of the Beaver Creek Ranger Station on Forest Road 618, east of the Sedona exit on Interstate 17.

Boulders along the red dirt trail bear petroglyphs left by the ancient Sinagua who made their homes throughout the Verde valley from 900 to 1400 AD.

In fact, the hills and canyons along Beaver Creek are rich in cultural heritage sites, including Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Well, Sacred Mountain and the V Bar V petroglyph site.

V Bar V offers visitors a chance to get an up close and personal look at some spectacular rock art. The site includes 1,032 individual petroglyphs on 13 separate rock panels. Friends of the Forest volunteers staff the site, which is open Friday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You will need a Red Rock Pass to park at several of the sites in the upper Beaver Creek drainage.

Developed camping is also available at the Beaver Creek Campground, 2 miles east on Forest road 618 from the intersection of Interstate 17 and State Route 179.

• Exit 298, and go east on Forest Road 618

• Bell Trail trailhead is about 2 miles down the road, and Beaver Creek Campground is about a quarter mile further.

• Bring along water, food and emergency survival gear (matches, hat, clothes, pocketknife, etc.). Check the weather before you go.

• A fishing pole may enhance your chance to catch fish. Binoculars may enhance your wildlife experience.