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5/21/2013 1:37:00 PM
Getting more access out of the Verde River (with video)
The Town of Clarkdale and Freeport MacMoRan have worked out an agreement that would permit the town to use a 90-acre section of FMC land near the now-abandoned TAPCO power plant.
The Town of Clarkdale and Freeport MacMoRan have worked out an agreement that would permit the town to use a 90-acre section of FMC land near the now-abandoned TAPCO power plant.
Map of the Verde River @ Clarkdale project area.
Map of the Verde River @ Clarkdale project area.
Take a trip down the Verde with Doug Von Gausig and others from TAPCO to Tuzigoot


Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter


VERDE VALLEY -- The Camp Verde area already had a long-established kayaking concession on the Verde River as a recreational and profitable pastime between the White Bridge and Beasley Flats. Regular float trips now ply the river at that end of the Verde Valley. Float trips along other sections of the river are typically casual.

But now, thanks to the help of several foundations, Clarkdale hopes to get into the kayaking trade and other river related activities as well.

The Town of Clarkdale and mining giant and Clarkdale landholder Freeport MacMoRan have worked out an Access Licensing agreement that would permit the town to use a 90-acre section of FMC land near the now-abandoned TAPCO power plant. The site would allow kayaks to put in at TAPCO and float down to Tuzigoot. The site would also permit a riverside area for picnicking and swimming and other activities, including educational classes.

The agreement was signed at the town council meeting last week.

It has taken a long time to get to this point. Clarkdale formerly had access to a large recreational area at Peck's Lake on land still owned by the successors of the United Verde Copper Company. At one time there was even water skiing on the lake, fishing as well as other recreation including a nine-hole golf course. Access to that land was posted by Phelps Dodge and blocked with earth berms late in 2003, almost 10 years ago. The Peck's Lake site did not serve the same purpose on the river, but it was an important recreational area for Clarkdale. One time, the surrounding lake even lit up with Fourth of July fireworks in Clarkdale.

Town Manager Gayle Mabery recalls the new river float proposal emerged from a brainstorming process. "It really came about as a result of the Mayor and I driving around town and looking at what we were calling under-utilized assets, everything from buildings to signage to roads. While driving along the river, we thought, 'why are we not capitalizing on that?' We have 2.2 miles of Verde River inside the Clarkdale town limits and it is under-utilized."

The concept first came to light as part of the Clarkdale Sustainability initiative in 2011. Now the float trip proposal has a life of its own in a new initiative also funded by the Walton Family Foundation, called the

Verde River @ Clarkdale.

There was always an idea that Clarkdale would have two access points, says Mayor Doug Von Gausig. "We were originally looking at a western access point about a mile closer to town. But we were shown that upper TAPCO site, and it was just so spectacular that we couldn't resist it. It gives us about 4.5 miles between the two parks for boating."

The Walton Family Foundation has been a key player in the development of the plan and other river-related initiatives. WFF also funded a project under the banner of American Rivers that anticipated a more regional river protection effort, called the Verde River Blue Trail Access Plan. American Rivers said the project was to balance two "common yet conflicting natural resource management objectives: providing public recreational access and protecting the ecological, scenic and historic values of the significant regional resource."

Von Gausig says the plan serves an interesting demographic. "What we started to find out when we started doing our homework is that people who are boating enthusiasts are also birding enthusiasts and they are also wine people."

While the Verde River @ Clarkdale initiative is part of an economic development plan, the proposal also intends to get more people on the river to assure that the river remains vital, healthy and flowing, Mabery says.

"While economic development is a goal. The other major goal in providing more public access is to provide that personal connection for people with the river," she says. "We think that Clarkdale strongly values having a flowing Verde River. We want to see that continue and we know that to have a personal connection to kind of 'get it' how important it is to protect the flow."

There are three elements to the initiative funded with the $420,496 WFF Grant: development of the TAPCO site, development of the Tuzigoot river access point and work to reach an understanding about Brewers Tunnel and dam that blocks the river, upstream from Tuzigoot. The dam blocks river access and forces boaters to portage around it.

The Tuzigoot River Access Point is located just across the Tuzigoot Bridge on 70 acres that area residents have probably used informally for generations for fishing, picnics and other activities.

An Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Grant has already been applied to that project and should see some results this year. That grant will improve vehicle access, provide a handicapped accessible trail, a viewing deck by the river and handicapped parking spaces.

Not related to the agreement with FMC is another proposed project for expanding Clarkdale's trails along the Verde River. Walton Foundation money has already helped Friends of the Verde River Greenway to rid invasive species from the river around the town's wastewater plants, thanks to a work team from Vetraplex, returned veterans putting their shoulders and skills to work.

Mabery says a loop trail system that comes off the existing Benatz Trail drops down and goes right along the river near the treatment plant. Mabery believes that will be an ideal place to launch inner tubes for a run down to the Tuzigoot take out.

The mayor is thrilled at the way the pieces are coming together.

"There are a lot of activities in the spring that are both birding and river-oriented. Freeport MacMoRan was very interested in having classes at TAPCO and kids out there to learn about the river and how a riparian habitat works. I think we haven't even begun to scrape what's possible out there."

Von Gausig says, "I have heard that on the American Rivers Blue Trail they are working to develop a site near the I-17 bridge where Camp Verde owns a small piece of property. We have always seen a synergy between what is going on in Camp Verde and what is going on in Clarkdale as two bookends of the Verde Valley in terms of the river, so that we can coordinate events with what is going on down there or what is happening in Clarkdale. I think that is going to be a great partnership."

Taylor Waste
Related Links:
• Take a trip down the Verde with Doug Von Gausig and others from TAPCO to Tuzigoot.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013
Article comment by: K ....

The first dam is the hickey diversion. This serves water to dead horse state park and a couple small users. The second is the cottonwood diversion.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: This is a great family activity!

I have done this trip thru the Camp Verde concession with my 2 nephews, age 11 and 12, and we had a great time. We were the 1st ones down the Verde River that am, and there were Blue Herons feeding as we floated by. One of them boulder hopped about 75 feet ahead of us, watching us with curiosity. Once you have seen the Verde River from a Ducky boat or kayak, you'll understand why the Verde River is such the special gem it is. Rumor is they offer great specials to locals, and there is a 2 for the price of one on certain days. The staff down at the river are knowledgeable and will walk you thru what you need to know and do-which isn't much-you basically get in and go.

I wish they offered a season pass for locals. Bring a lunch as they pick up up and shuttle you back to the start area so you can run it as many times as you want.

I also recommend this trip to out of state visitors and they have all have had a great time, especially the city folks.


Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by: Native Arizonian

On Sunday the 19th, me and my two boys (ages 14 and 12) put our kayaks in at the Tuzigoot bridge and went all the way to Bridgeport Bridge.

Once we past the first earth dam for the Cottonwood Ditch, we encountered a river otter! I'm 37 years old, was born and raised in the Verde Valley and I have only seen three on the Verde. Further down we encountered a second earth dam. I do not know what this one was for, but we had to walk the boats 500 yards before we were able to get back in the water. The rest of the trip was awesome! I did notice that there was alot and I mean alot of beaver dams and activities of the beavers. Between the man made earth dams and the beavers, the river was slowed down and at some point to a trickle. If the second earth dam was removed or a channel put in it for water flow, the flow of the river would be better.

When I was a kid they dredged sand and rock from the Verde by River Front and N. 5th and also by the location of the current Mingus Ave bridge. I think this activity made the river flow better and the river seemed healthier that when I went down it this past weekend.

I remember cleaner water, more fish and alot less cattails, weeds and bamboo choking the river. I'm glad there is a new movement to use the river for clean sport activities. This trip is great for pre-teens and adults.




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