By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 12/6/2019
Posted: 6/20/2010
Topics/Keywords: #FossilCreek #Arizona #Photography Page Views: 4713
We go swimming at Fossil Creek Bridge.

Most times I've driven out to Verde Hot Spring for campouts, I've passed an inviting swimming hole just below Fossil Creek Bridge, but never actually stopped there. For Father's day, we made a specific trip there just to go swimming, and concluded unanimously that this was even more fun than Slide Rock!

What could be more fun than spending a day in fresh (non-city) air, swimming in clear, free-running, non-chlorinated water, far from traffic and crowds? Any of these would be reason enough; but at the swimming hole before Fossil Creek Bridge we found all of this.

What's The Deal

Fossil Creek was designated a "Wild and Scenic River" a year ago, by Presidential Proclamation, which at once provides protection for this delicate riparian area as well as celebrating its beauty and appeal. The creek was known by trappers in the area but did not first appear on Arizona maps until the 1860s. It gushes out of the earth at Fossil Spring at a flow rate of about 45 cfs and at a constant temperature of 72F. That makes its water as clean and natural as you can get, especially the closer you get to the source.

How To Get There

The swimming hole is just beneath Fossil Creek bridge, which is easily accessible, being just about 25 miles west of Camp Verde. If you have a GPS you can enter the following coordinates:

Latitude: 111 39' 75" N 
Longitude: 34 23' 41.79" E

From Payson, simply head north on Arizona SR 87, passing through Pine (watch the speed limit!) and entering into Strawberry. In Strawberry watch for the Fossil Creek Rd. sign and turn left at the light onto Fossil Creek Rd. The first two miles will be paved; the remaining 10 miles or so of the route is a gravel road but it's normally in good shape and can be traversed by a regular car.

Although your destination is the swimming hole, be sure and appreciate the scenery. You'll be driving into some of the least-tamed countryside Arizona's got. Consider stopping at the new concrete barrier and taking a look over the edge: See if you can spot all six cars that have made this plunge. I could only find four. Here are three of them:

The road may be a challenge to the faint of heart, but it's really quite safe…I've driven it many times at night on my way to Verde Hot Spring.

There are several points along the road where you'll find a number of cars parked along the side, especially on weekends. That's because the road parallels Fossil Creek, and the bridge isn't the only place to swim or fish.

You'll know the bridge when you get there; it's the only one and anyway you can see the swimming hole beyond the left side.

Fossil Creek Swimming Hole from Fossil Creek Bridge.

You may be surprised at how few people you see, considering how many cars are probably parked alongside the road. But that's because there's actually a lot of area for people to enjoy down there, and they tend to spread out.

So, find a place to park. We put ourselves in a little turnoff. Be careful, though; when we left we had to help out someone in a small car who'd hung themselves up on a rock by pulling too far over into a ditch.

Get whatever gear you intend to bring with you (cooler, towels, water), lock up your car and head for the bridge.

Zach approaching the creek.

You'll find a rocky path at either end of the bridge by which to descend to the creek. The paths are steep but short and easy to navigate, even while holding gear, as long as you're reasonably healthy and willing to take your time. (Of course, my grandson Zach made several runs up and down, preferring to step from boulder to boulder than follow the actual path.)

At the creek's edge, we found we had a choice of many lovely spots to plant ourselves. We started with a spot under the bridge, so Zach's grandmother, Mary, would be able to relax without getting too much sun. (Mary seldom joins in the swimming.) But soon she was in the water with us, and we moved our stuff to a spot where we could more easily keep an eye on it—not that anyone else there gave us any feeling our stuff was in danger.

Mary under the bridge.

The Experience

The trip personnel was composed of myself, my daughter Jenny, Jenny's mother, Mary, and her son, Zachary. Michael had to stay home studying.

It was so easy to take pictures with no one but members of our party in them, that the viewer might feel like we were the only people there. That isn't so, and this is probably not the place to go for a wilderness experience or a spot suitable for secluded meditation. Here's an overview shot that serves as an example of with whom we shared the creek.

Fellow bathers at Fossil Creek.

But, at least when we were there, no one was rowdy; no one was unpleasant; no one played boom boxes or, as far as we know, scored a drug deal. It was mostly families like ours, some with very young children (in playpens, carried down from the road!), and in the whole crowd I only spotted one smoker.

The place couldn't have been designed any better. The rocks have been coated with travertine, which smooths them out and covers the sharpest edges; the creek at this point is (I would guess) about 12 feet deep and certainly suitable for swimming. Because of the depth the current doesn't flow fast here so there's no worry about being swept downstream; and the sides of the creek have considerately-placed rocks that make perfect steps when you're ready to climb out of the water.

Your blogger immersed in Fossil Creek.

There are also a number of ledges at the perfect depth for relaxing in the 72 water while watching the kids play.

Jenny relaxes in Fossil Creek.

Because the water is crystal clear and so deep, it's safe to let kids like Zachary jump off rocks and even dive into the water.

Zach diving into Fossil Creek. Zach and Jenny jump into Fossil Creek.

Even Mary couldn't resist and got into the water—spent quite a while, actually.

Mary and Zach in Fossil Creek.

I have to tell you, as one of the two grandpas who taught Zach to swim, it really warms my heart to see an 11-year-old as strong and comfortable in the water as Zach is.

And I certainly understood when, after an hour or so in the pool, Zach began casting his eye upstream.

Fossoli Creek.

The cascade just upstream of the pool must have presented an irresistible challenge.

Fossil Creek cascade.

And so Zach began the fight against the current to conquer the cascade.

Zach fighting the current in Fossil Creek. Zach conquers the Fossil Creek cascade!

Eventually, we had to leave of course, to meet my son John, his girlfriend, Rachel, and my husband Michael at Fuddruckers to enjoy a Father's Day dinner. But we will be back!

Fossil Creek Bridge