Rivers and Wetlands

Verde River in August
Verde River During Monsoon Season

NPS Rachel Wilkin

The Verde River

The Verde River is as precious a resource to modern-day inhabitants of the Verde Valley, as it was to the people who built Tuzigoot pueblo a thousand years ago. Draining an area of approximately 6,188 square miles, the Verde flows from its source near Paulden to its confluence with the Salt River over 190 miles away. Because many of its tributaries drain areas of significantly higher elevation that receive more rainfall than the valley itself, floods can occur during the winter, spring, and summer. Eight stream gaging stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey are located within the watershed.

Up until the 1890s the Verde was in places over a mile wide, creating a series of marshes and sloughs, and providing habitat for a wide variety of native species. A severe flood event in 1893 and decades of human manipulation have resulted in the incising of the river into its present channel. Today, over 270 species of birds, 94 species of mammals, and 76 native amphibians use the watershed at some point in their lifecycles.

While water quality in the river is generally good, past mining operations have had a negative effect. High levels of sodium, turbidity, boron, mercury, iron, ammonium, and selenium are often recorded. Dedicated volunteers, trained in water quality monitoring, document the condition of the water on a regular basis. Today, the primary threat to the perennial river is from unmanaged ground pumping and diversions of surface water. Ditches channel the flow for the growing of crops in the communities of Cottonwood and Camp Verde. Between these two towns, the river flows through mostly private land.

South of Camp Verde, the land along the Verde is managed by the Prescott, Coconino, and Tonto National Forests. Southern bald eagles use the craggy cliffs bordering the river for nesting sites and can often be seen during the winter and spring as they search for food along the river corridor. The river is stocked with trout by the Arizona Department of Fish and Game in the winter. River otters, reintroduced in the 1980s, can be seen occasionally. Such a unique riparian landscape in an unexpected location brings enormous value to the residents of all shapes and sizes in the Verde Valley.

 
 
satellite photo showing the ancestral meander of the Verde river that forms the marsh
Tavasci Marsh and Verde River Map

NPS

Tavasci Marsh

Severed from the Verde River nearly 10,000 years ago, Tavasci Marsh is the largest freshwater marsh in Arizona unconnected to the Colorado River. Unfortunately, the intense human and mining developments within and around Tavasci Marsh until the early 1990's severely reduced the presence of native vegetation and wildlife. NPS acquired the marsh as a part of the Tuzigoot property in 2005 and began endeavors to study, rehabilitate, and enhance this unique habitat.

With an area of approximately 96 acres, Tavasci Marsh feeds into the Verde River, and over 245 species of birds have been documented in the riparian corridor. The site is an Audubon Society Important Bird Area and our NPS Biological Resources team continues to monitor valuable species within and around the marsh.

The first Tavasci Marsh area homesteader's deed was issued to Harriet M. Hawkins in 1884, who attempted to irrigate and cultivate the riparian zone. By 1900 the ownership was transferred back and forth between the O'Shea family and United Verde Copper Company, until 1928 when it was taken over by the Tavasci family and their dairy farm.

Historic mining and mineral processing activities, including a large tailings pile on a privately-owned inholding within the legislative boundary of Tuzigoot National Monument, have contributed to contaminants found in the marsh. The USGS and Tuzigoot National Monument continue their partnership in understanding the wellbeing of the marsh and its inhabitants. In 2014 a report was released that assesses the mineral elements within Tavasci Marsh. Three sediment cores collected in the marsh had elevated metal and trace element concentrations at the bottom of the core. Radioisotope dating indicates that the elevated metal and trace element concentrations are associated with sediments deposited before 1963. The next step will be to further investigate the Marsh to determine the nature and extent of contamination and to assess risk to human and ecological receptors.

 

Last updated: January 6, 2023

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 219
Camp Verde , AZ 86322

Phone:

928-634-5564

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