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Fossil Creek to reopen to the public on November 3

Fossil Creek to reopen to the public on November 3

Sycamore Canyon reopens as well

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The Fossil Creek recreation area — closed since June 2021 due to impacts from the Backbone Fire — will reopen to the public beginning November 3. Sycamore Canyon has reopened as well. All Fossil Creek sites, including Childs Dispersed Camping Area, will reopen on November 3 except the Dixon Lewis Trail (formerly known as the Waterfall Trail).

This trail is expected to reopen later this month when repairs are complete.“This area is special to a great many people and we appreciate the public’s patience while it recovers,” said Deputy District Ranger Alex Schlueter. “That recovery continues for both Fossil Creek and Sycamore Canyon, but we are excited to welcome visitors back. ”The 16-month closure was necessary to allow the landscape to recover from both fire and monsoonal damage.

A large, natural waterfall on Fossil Creek is the destination of an easy, one mile hike on Waterfall Trail. A large, deep pool at the base of the fall is a popular swimming hole. Fossil Creek produces 20,000 gallons of water a minute from a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. This permanent water source has created a stunningly beautiful, green riparian zone rich with flora and fauna at the bottom of this arid canyon in Arizona’s high desert. Travertine deposits encase whatever happens to fall into the streambed, forming the fossils for which the area is named. These deposits create deep pools along the length of the creek, providing opportunities to find more secluded swimming holes than the popular pool at the waterfall. Fossil Creek is one of two “Wild and Scenic” rivers in Arizona. This designation was achieved when the Irving power plant was decommissioned, and removal of flume and dam on the creek allowed the creek to flow free. Increasing popularity has led to the Coconino and Tonto National Forests to implement a parking permit reservation system in 2016. Reserved parking permits allow visitors to have a parking spot available in their chosen parking lot. Many visitors drive two or three hours to get to the creek. The final descent to the creek at the bottom of a canyon is on an extremely rough, rocky jeep road. In prior years, the area would often be closed to entry when it reached capacity, and potential visitors would be turned away after the long, difficult drive. Photo by Deborah Lee Soltesz, May 4, 2016. For trail and recreation information, see Fossil Creek, Fossil Springs Wilderness, and the Coconino National Forest.

Road and infrastructure repair was conducted during the closure period to ensure visitor safety. The area’s continued recovery also means that a future closure is likely during the 2023 monsoon season (June through October) for public safety. Because vegetation in the area has not fully grown back since the fire, there is a greater risk for flash flooding and debris dams, especially during heavy precipitation. Additionally, Fossil Creek will likely close temporarily in early 2023 to complete resurfacing of Forest Road 708. Permits are not currently required to visit the Fossil Creek area, but permits will be required beginning April 1, 2023.

Permits will be available for purchase beginning March 1, 2023, via Recreation.gov. Recreationists interested in purchasing permits for the 2023 season can subscribe to emails from the Coconino National Forest or visit the Coconino NF website to remain up-to-date on permit information and check for unexpected changes in conditions or closures.

Recreationists seeking to explore Fossil Creek are reminded to pack out all trash, stick to developed recreation areas, and abide by all posted signage indicating restrictions or closures. It is also important to note that camping is only allowed downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge and upstream of the historic dam site in the backcountry. Camping is not allowed within the permit area during the permit season.

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