Rivers and Wetlands

A brown, partially flooded river flowing through dense green vegetation


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 Sullivan Lake to its confluence with the Salt River over 140 miles away. Because many of its tributaries drain areas of significantly higher elevation that receive more rain and snow than the valley itself, floods can occur during the winter, spring, and summer. Eight streamgaging stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey are located in the watershed.

Up until the 1890s the river was in places over a mile wide, creating a series of marshes and sloughs providing habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including parrots. A severe flood event in 1893 resulted in the incising of the river into its present channel.

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 use of this surface water is for agricultural irrigation. Many 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 is managed by the Prescott, Coconino, and Tonto National Forests. The river hosts native populations of suckers and non-native fish such as carp, catfish, and bass. Southern bald eagles find adquate nest sites in the craggy cliffs bordering the river 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.

satellite photo showing the ancestral meander of the Verde river that forms the marsh


Tavasci Marsh

Tavasci Marsh is a spring-fed freshwater wetland that occupies an ancestral oxbow of the Verde River. With an area of approximately 96 acres, the marsh is the largest freshwater wetland in northern Arizona that is not associated with the Colorado River. Tavasci Marsh feeds into the Verde River, and over 245 species of birds have been documented in the riparian corridor of the Verde River and the marsh.

The first known record of private ownership of the marsh occurred in 1890, when an area including the marsh was deeded to a local rancher who raised beef cattle for Jerome and other local markets.

From 1911 to 2005, a series of mining companies owned the marsh, and all of the lands comprising the Monument were once owned by mining companies. Historic mining and mineral processing activities, including a large tailings pile on a privately-owned inholding within the legislative boundary of Tuzigoot National Monument, may be contributing to contaminants found in the marsh.

Between 2010-2013, the U.S. Geological Survey and NPS conducted a three-year partner project evaluating potential contaminants in the marsh in anticipation of a proposed large-scale marsh restoration project. Preliminary data from these site investigation activities indicate that contaminant levels for copper, arsenic, and barium in sediment soil cores exceed ecological and human health screening levels. Other contaminants above background levels include cadmium, nickel, lead, and zinc. Contaminants were also found in marsh vegetation such as cattails. Based upon these data, NPS has determined that further site investigation activities are warranted.

The USGS and Tuzigoot National Monument continue their partnership. In 2014 a report was released that assesses the mineral elements within Tavasci Marsh. 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.
If you have questions concerning the information contained in this fact sheet, please contact Matt Guebard, Tuzigoot National Monument at (928) 649-6195, or Chris Reel, Intermountain Regional Office - Denver at (303) 969-2643.

Last updated: April 13, 2021

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 219
Camp Verde, AZ 86322



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