Across the nation, river enthusiasts, communities and government agencies are gearing up to celebrate wild rivers with the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Congress passed this landmark legislation on Oct. 2, 1968, to preserve selected rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers of our nation and state will be celebrated in our community on Friday October 5th at the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center on State Route 179 south of the Village of Oak Creek. Take this opportunity to discover more about our unique and important river resources.
Events on October 5th kick off at 9:30am with a documentary film: A River Reborn, The Restoration of Fossil Creek, followed by a presentation on the Wild and Scenic Rivers System at 10:30. Meet and greet Moonlight the Screech Owl at 11:30am. Cake and ice cream will be served at noon. A talk about river boating safety and responsible recreation begins at 12:30pm. The Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition will discuss current and upcoming stewardship activities at 1:00pm. Repeat showing of A River Reborn film at 2:30pm. An educational booth will be outside the Visitor Center from 9:30am to 3:00pm.
Today, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System protects over 12,700 miles of 209 rivers in 40 states, representing just one-quarter of one percent of the nation’s 3.6 million miles of streams and rivers. In the days of fur trappers and pioneers, free-flowing rivers were the lifeblood of commerce, transportation and fisheries across America. Today, they are critical yet often-overlooked sources of clean water, critical habitat, and rejuvenating recreation.
Arizona’s Fossil Creek and 40.5 miles of the Verde River’s 170 miles are the only two rivers in the state selected for outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, and cultural values. The designation prohibits new hydropower projects, bank and channel alterations, or oil, gas and mineral development on riverfront public lands and establishes a federal water right to protect flow-dependent values.
The Wild and Scenic portion of the Verde was designated in 1984, beginning at Beasley Flats and extending downstream 40 miles to the mouth of Red Creek, crossing through parts of three National Forests. The Verde’s diverse recreational opportunities can overshadow its important role as habitat for more than 50 endangered or special status fish and wildlife species. This habitat also supports over 60 percent of the vertebrate species that inhabit the Coconino, Prescott and Tonto National Forests, and contains archaeological evidence of occupation and human use for as long as 8,000 to 10,000 years.
Danielle Boulais is Forest Service Wild & Scenic Rivers/Wilderness Coordinator for the Red Rock Ranger District. She is responsible for coordinating a variety of river management efforts. On the Verde, this includes annual clearing of the river corridor from hazards to ensure safe recreation. Removal of the invasive tamarisk tree has been a fifteen year effort which is now down to the last mile of riverbank to be treated this fall season. A new effort was launched last year, in partnership with the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition, to treat invasive fountain grass in the lower Wild and Scenic Verde. “The area we were treating was so remote that it took three days of travel by kayaks to reach the site”, said Boulais.
When not working on the Verde during winter months, the focus is on Fossil Creek, which President Barrack Obama designated as a National Wild and Scenic River in 2009. The management plan at Fossil is designed to balance recreation use with the preservation of this unique waterway. Boulais reports that the online reservation system required for summer visitation, in place for three seasons, has drawn favorable public reaction.
In addition to the Wild and Scenic Rivers celebration, October brings seasonal resumption of morning guided hikes on the Red Rock Ranger District. These small group activities generally involve two hours of moderate walking and require registration at the Red Rock Visitor Center or by phone at 928-203-2903. Meeting times and locations are provided to participants when registering. Weather permitting, the Fall program includes:
Photography walks – each Friday in October, hosted by Arizona Natural History Association
Geology walks – October 2, November 6, and December 4, guided by Friends of the Forest volunteer Chris Weld
Birding walks – October 23, November 13 and 27, and December 11, led by naturalist and birder Kevin Harding
Detailed descriptions and guidelines for the full program of Red Rock Ranger District public events can be found at www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org, by clicking on the “EVENTS” link.
Serving Sedona, written this week by Jennifer Young of Friends of the Forest appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.