Recreation Management

Camping and Campfire Restrictions

The Forest Service implemented camping and campfire restrictions for Fossil Creek in March 2010. Restrictions follow (a map with restrictions noted can be found at:Fossil Creek Poster.pdf

1) Camping is prohibited within ¼ mile on either side of Fossil Creek starting at the Fossil Creek Bridge in Township 12 North, Range 7 East, Section 29 and continuing upstream to the old Fossil Creek Dam site located in Section 14.
2) Camping is prohibited within 100 ft on both sides of Fossil Creek starting in the southern boundary (Stehr Lake area) and continuing upstream to the Fossil Creek Bridge.
3) Campfires are prohibited within 1/4 mile on either side of Fossil Creek beginning in the vicinity of Stehr Lake upstream to the confluence of Sandrock Creek and Calf Pen Creek located in Section 7.

 Access

Access into Fossil Creek is sometimes restricted if capacity limits have been reached. There are limited areas to park in Fossil Creek and often there are more visitors than can be
accommodated with the parking spaces available.  Access is most often restricted during times of heavy use (weekends/holidays) and between mid-morning until early evening. The Forest Service provides timely updates via the Fossil Creek Hotline (928) 226-4611, and a Twitter feed available on the Red Rock Ranger District website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/coconino

The 708 road from Strawberry remains closed from 1/2 mile west of the upper Fossil Springs trail head and down into the canyon until immediately east of the Waterfall trailhead. The road will remain closed until April 15, 2015 or until rescinded.

Impacts of Recreation a Growing Concern

A significant concern at Fossil Creek is the impact of the large number of people visiting the creek. The Stakeholders have seen recreation pressure in the area grow since the return of full flows in 2005.  Dispersed campsites compact sensitive riparian soils and vegetation and can create soil erosion. Human waste and trash contaminate the creek, negatively effecting water quality and aquatic wildlife.

The Forest Service has been working in recent years to address these impacts through on-the-ground “interim” actions in the Middle Reach of Fossil Creek with funding provided by the Arizona Water Protection Fund and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality). These grants have allowed the Forest Service to rehabilitate some former campsites located adjacent to the creek, place portable toilets along the Middle Reach of Fossil Creek as funding allows, and implement measures to reduce sedimentation into the creek (See the Grants section of this website for more information).

Comprehensive River Management Plan

With Wild and Scenic River designation in 2009, the Forest Service is required to prepare a Comprehensive River Management Plan that will make decisions about how best to manage Fossil Creek for people and natural resources (See the Wild and Scenic River section of this website for more information about that process).

Each summer, the Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest conducted informal surveys of Fossil Creek visitors to assist them in making future management decisions. The Forest Service documented various factors including the number of people at popular swimming holes, the number of vehicles at parking areas, and the number of dispersed campsites. PowerPoint presentations outline some of that data are prepared each year by the Red Rock District and are available upon request (due to their large size) to Michele.James@nau.edu.

Northern Arizona University has been assisting the Forest Service by conducting informal visitor monitoring associated with portable toilet use and placement, as well as water quality and riparian vegetation monitoring associated with on-the-ground rehabilitation of selected riparian camping areas. Monitoring plans will be made available on the “Research and Monitoring” section of this web page as they become available.