Day Trip To Childs And The Verde River
Let's Take A Day Trip To Childs And The Verde River
January 1, 2024
John and I have been wanting to visit Childs for several years now, but the road was closed for a long time. Now that it's open again, we took a day and drove out there. It was a fun ride with a lot of cool stuff to see, and it's one you can do in a passenger car – but let me tell you, it's seriously washboard-y all the way to the split where one road goes to Fossil Creek access and one goes to Childs.
Starting at Camp Verde, take the 260 east to the Fossil Springs road, which is FR708. There are a lot of informative posters right at the beginning of this road.
708: You're going to be traveling on 708 for a long time. Because it is incredibly washboard-y, we went very slowly and I still felt like my hips were both broken by the end of the day. But a lot of people were going pretty darn fast on that road. Granted, a Jeep is a much harder ride than a car!
We pulled off on a road near the beginning of 708 to let Mochi run around since we'd already been driving for over an hour. This road said it was closed in a bit because of a fire, so we just hung out for a bit, let the dog run around, and refilled our coffees before we hit the road again.
708 is one of those roads that starts to snake along the side of mountains, which means there aren't a whole lot of roads going off it. But at one point my Topo Maps App showed me a short track to the east in Sycamore Canyon, and it showed a spring not too far away. This little pull-off is on a bit of a hairpin turn, but we saw it easily and went down it. Wow!
It was unexpectedly beautiful in there! Such a small area but the spring meant that there was a tiny stream of water, and there were big trees in full fall color. It looks like people camp there now and then, but there is really only room for one vehicle. We explored around in there and of course Mochi went in the water, and I really didn't want to leave, but we still had a long way to go. But what a gorgeous little spot. One of the perks of off-roading is finding these gems.
Towel Creek Trail
When you get to the Hackberry Basin area (you can see all these places on the Topo Maps app) you'll see a couple of trailheads. Towel Creek trail is a long one with two trailheads. To get from one to the other it's about 8.5 miles, but to hike from one of the trailheads back to the same one it's almost 17 miles. One of the trailheads is here on 708 and the other is off the Gap Creek Trail at Camp Verde. There's a great trail guide at hikearizona.com for this Gap Creek trailhead.
To The Verde River
There is a side track about 3 miles from the trailhead that goes to Towel Spring, and after that there's an old line shack that is still in use by the local cowboys. The trail eventually goes to the Verde River.
There are a bunch of features in this area around the Towel Creek trailhead that include the name Dorens Defeat. I tried, but I couldn't find any information about Doren at all. There's Dorens Defeat Spring, Dorens Defeat Canyon, Dorens Defeat Spring, etc. I'd really like to find out the history behind that name!
On one of the hiking forums, there was a discussion about Dorens Defeat Castle, which was intriguing, to say the least. It even gave coordinates for it, which I put into Google Maps. What I came up with was just a pile of rocks, but then I found a photo on hikearizona.com and a description of Dorens Defeat Castle and it is a large rectangle – the remains of a rock wall. It also says that it centers Dorens in the middle of the Verde Confederacy.This Doren's Defeat mystery really has my curiosity piqued!
I did research the Verde Confederacy, and I was expecting something about the Civil War, but this actually refers to regional wars between A.D. 1100 to 1450! The theory is that warfare and alliances were practiced on a large scale, bigger than anywhere else in prehistoric southwest America. It's controversial.
Worth The Hike!
On another hiking forum they discussed Towel Creek ruins with a different set of coordinates. I looked that up and there were a bunch of photos of some pretty amazing rock walls across openings in the cliffs. Definitely worth the hike! Just goes to show you what kind of rabbit trails you can go down when you start to research place names in Arizona!
502 To Childs
After around 14 miles on 708, you take a right turn onto 502 to Childs. If you keep going on Fossil Springs Road (708), you'll come to the trailhead for the famous Fossil Springs swimming hole. You need a permit for this hike because it was getting loved to death.
Along Fossil Creek
502 takes you along Fossil Creek in places, and you'll start seeing the remains of the structures that supported the Irving Power Plant at Childs. There's a big pipe that siphoned water over the mountains, and you can see the Sally May Siphon intake from the road. Once you get into this area you start to see a lot of parking areas that are day use for people who want to play or fish in Fossil Creek. There are a lot of No Camping areas, so just pay attention and follow the rules.
We had seen Stehr Lake on the map and we thought it was an actual lake (our old map even showed a boat ramp!), but it's just a big dry area with a distinctly different colored vegetation. Apparently it stored water for use at the power plant if the creek didn't provide enough. Once the power plant was dismantled, including a dam and other infrastructure, the lake drained and was gone. Also gone are thousands of feet of concrete flumes. This all restored Fossil Creek's original flow.
Verde River And Verde Hot Springs
The end of the road is at the Verde River, and there is a nice campground there with a pit toilet. We found a lovely shady spot to park right by the river, which is wide and slow moving at this point. Walking along it upstream revealed some faster water – not quite whitewater, but still lots of fun in a kayak. There is a boat ramp for kayaks and inflatables at the campground, very near where we parked. We had lunch here and it was cool and shady. The only downside was having to keep Mochi on a leash because we were in a campground.
Definitely A Fun Trip
Just before you get to the campground there is a road to the north toward the electrical substation that is there. This road is closed, but this is where people were parked who were going to Verde Hot Springs. You need to hike a couple of miles to the river and cross the river to get to the hot springs. We didn't bother, but we did find photos of it online and it's surprisingly built up.
This was definitely a fun trip, and I've got to admit it was worth the sore bum from the bumpy ride. We saw a lot of hawks, rabbits, ground squirrels, and deer, plus it was fun to stop and read all the informative signs telling about the Irving Power Plant history and seeing what was left of the infrastructure. I'd recommend this drive!