Fossil Creek

Conserving the last unprotected stretch of a treasured Wild and Scenic River

Fossil Creek flows from a series of mineral springs in the Mogollon Rim, and its calcium-rich, aquamarine water creates beautiful travertine deposits throughout the river corridor. The stream is one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in all of Arizona. (Photo by G. Reid Helms)

For over a century, Fossil Creek was dewatered by a hydroelectric project that left the stream virtually dry. As part of the largest-ever river recovery effort in the Southwest, the diversion dam was decommissioned in 2005, and full flows were returned to the creek. Invasive species were removed and today the stream is home to nine native fish species. (Photo by Dan Sorensen)

In 2016, Western Rivers Conservancy conserved the last unprotected parcel of land inside the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River corridor. The effort will benefit the creek’s unique fish and wildlife, protect an outstanding scenic area and archaeological resources, and improve efforts by the Coconino National Forest to manage an increasing number of people visiting the creek. (Photo by Dan Sorensen)

Spikedace are an endangered species and have been eliminated throughout most of their range due to habitat destruction and the introduction of nonnative species. The fish were reintroduced to Fossil Creek in 2007 and are now one of nine native fish species that inhabit the stream, which is now free of non-native species. (Photo by

Today, you would never know that Fossil Creek was dewatered for nearly a hundred years. The stream nourishes an incredibly lush riparian area that provides diverse habitat for the fragile wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. (Photo by Dan Sorensen)

Photo by Dan Sorensen.

The Lucy's warbler is one of numerous sensitive bird species found in and around Fossil Creek. Other birds that inhabit or potentially inhabit the stream are common blackhawk, Mexican spotted owls, southwestern willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo , golden eagle, zone-tailed hawk, American dipper, Bell’s vireo, Lucy’s warbler, belted kingfisher, peregrine falcon, and Costa’s hummingbird.(Photo by Christopher L. Christie)

Photo by Dan Sorensen.

The high mineral content of Fossil Creek gives the stream a blue-green hue that can be spectacular on sunny days. The creek has become a popular destination for swimmers, hikers, sun-bathers, birders and wildlife watchers. WRC's work will create new access to the only stretch of riverland that was privately owned and help Coconino National Forest's efforts to manage the stream for the benefit of fish and wildlife.

Fossil Creek is a rich wildlife corridor flowing through the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Photo by Dan Sorensen.