Poor Arizonans. So dry. So thirsty. Except in Rim Country — where three of the most remarkable streams in the Southwest converge. As a result, Rim Country offers some of the best trout streams in the state, thanks once again to the effects of its shifts in elevation.
The Rim first gathers, then releases, most of the snowfall and much of the rain that falls on the state, providing millions of acre-feet of runoff during rains and more gradually through springs along the base of the limestone creeks. Each week the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks many of those streams.
For details on the stocking schedule, check the Arizona Game and Fish website. Each creek gets 400 to 600 fish a week. Tonto, Christopher and Haigler creeks all get weekly infusions of fish, so does the East Verde River.
East Verde River
The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks all the good pools along the East Verde off Flowing Springs Road and Houston Mesa Road. Anglers here can work their way up- and downstream in an open creek shaded by cottonwoods, willows and sycamores. Game and Fish stocks down to the big pool at the entrance to East Verde Estates. Downstream from that development, the river enters Forest Service land and eventually a wilderness area.
Hikers and campers can enjoy access to miles of wild river and fishermen can work the pools for bass, catfish and other warm water species. The East Verde connects to the main stem of the Verde River near Childs. Several excellent campsites along Houston Mesa and Flowing Springs roads fill up quickly on the weekend, but often sit nearly empty during the week. The release of some 11,000 acre-feet of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir atop the Rim each year into the East Verde should make the flows more reliable, even in dry years. The waterfall and pools above Water Wheel off Houston Mesa Road remain popular with locals all summer.
Once the weather warms as the summer idles along, Game and Fish stops stocking the East Verde and concentrates on Tonto Creek, about 1,000 feet higher in elevation and about halfway between Payson and the vast plateau of the Mogollon Rim itself.
Here, anglers find a beautiful, springfed stream, well stocked with rainbows. Fishermen can stick to the stocked pools close by the good road and campgrounds or work upstream toward the hatchery. They can also get onto Tonto Creek at the end of a steep, five-mile dirt road at Bear Flat. Here, they can go after the stocked trout — or work their way downstream into the Hellsgate Wilderness area.That route offers an arduous canyoneering adventure all the way to Roosevelt Lake.
The journey involves swimming the pools, hiking and fishing for bass and native desert fish in one of the most beautiful and other-worldly areas in the state.
Just outside of Pine lies one of the most remarkable streams in Arizona — Fossil Creek. The U.S. Forest Service has barred fires and camping along the creek to protect it. The Forest Service may also limit access to the creek down the Fossil Creek Road this summer. Check with the Payson Ranger Station to find out if the road is open down to the creek from Strawberry. If the road is closed to vehicles, you can still get access on the arduous Fossil Creek Trail, which starts just outside of Strawberry and switchbacks down to the creek.
Fossil Creek has become one of the most distinctive streams in Arizona in the five years since Arizona Public Service electrical company agreed to shut down a historic hydroelectric plant and return the water to the creek.
Since the spring water seeps through fissures in ancient layers of limestone and picks up dissolved travertine, it gives the water that unearthly blue-green color. The travertine also precipitates out of the water, forming dikes and dams of drip castle design.
WELCOME TO ARIZONA RIM COUNTRY
BEST BET STREAMS
Rim Country offers a greater variety of streams in a shorter space than anywhere in Arizona. Stocked streams include: Tonto, East Verde, Haigler, Christopher and Workman.