The Verde River/Rio Verde Adventure
(Edited 6/29/07 to remove some pictures because too many sicko pedophiles are finding my blog to peep at boys in a river. NONE of my pics were immodest, but I’m removing a couple that might even slightly be viewed inappropriately.)
Friday last week, Sept 15, I took the kids on another nature outing. Similar to our last event, we had three objectives:
- To play in nature — as in the “loose parts” unstructured play in natural settings, as described by Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods.
- To identify, pick and press whatever wildflowers we find, adding them to a planned year-long collection.
- To participate in a small nature-studies project for each outing.
The last outing was somewhat, uh, too unstructured, and since I forgot a hat for Audrey, and it was quite warm, she and I stayed in the truck for most of the day, and I wasn’t able to supervise them on their project, so we re-did it.
Someone asked me how I find places to go. Here’s what I told her:
I have an Arizona Road & Recreation Atlas (published by Benchmark Press — there’s a similar one called Arizona Atlas & Gazeteer or something like that, but I like the one I have better). It’s the size of a 50-state atlas, but it’s just Arizona, so it’s 1″ = 5 miles or around there. It shows all the different kinds of lands… so I look for BLM (federal) land or State land, usually in an area that is close to water. Similar to what I look for in a camping spot, I like water, but not a lake. Lakes require too much
close supervision, and I just can’t do that w/ all four.
Also, I take elevation into account — so when it’s summertime or early Fall, etc., I look for a place higher in elevation than where we are. It can be tough to find a stream/small river with water in it that isn’t too hot, but isn’t too far away.
I also like places that are off the beaten track, b/c then it’s likely that we’ll be the only people there, and the land will be in good shape, KWIM? So, it’s usually down some 4WD track, like it was this time.
As we headed out, it was so fun noticing the flowers that we had identified from our last trip — Desert Senna and Arizona Caltrop. Once you identify something, you notice it. We saw those flowers everywhere — even seeing a few hillsides *covered* with the Arizona Caltrop. But, since we knew the name, it wasn’t just, “Ooo, see the pretty orange flowers!” It was, “Wow!! Look at all those Arizona Caltrops!!”
We took the Carefree Hwy west this time, through Cave Creek and Carefree, out to Bartlett Dam Road. My intention was to take FR 452, Indian Springs Wash Rd, NE to the Verde River, between Horseshoe Reservoir and Bartlett Lake. I had pulled up an online topo map of the area, and the river seemed flat and wide at that area, which would suit our purposes well.
Well, we got to the turnoff for Indian Spgs, and the road was closed. So, I consulted my atlas, and decided to approach it from a slightly different tack, going up NE to Horseshoe, then cutting down SE via a different 4WD track. So, we turned around, and went the 3 miles back to the turnoff for Horseshoe Reservoir. Well, we hadn’t seen, as we whizzed by earlier, that that road was closed, too.
[I called into the Tonto Natl Forest Cave Creek Ranger Station to find out why the roads were closed. Horseshoe Reservoir road was closed due to wash out from storms, and will be open “within a few weeks.” Indian Springs Wash Road was closed due to it being along the burnout area of a large fire (2nd largest in AZ history) last summer. They’re waiting for adequate re-vege to take place before they open the road, but it’ll stay closed for the “foreseeable future.”]
I’ve been trying to convince my boys that the adventure of finding the route and the right spot is part of the enjoyment of these sorts of trips, but they aren’t yet convinced. They just want to get there.
I consulted my atlas again, and decided to go all the way into Bartlett Lake — which requires a $6 fee, payable by debit/credit or dollar bills and coins using exact change at the self-pay station. We headed south towards the Riverside Campground, and further south of that, past the warning sign that the road is unmaintained. I didn’t check the odometer, but after trying about 4 or 5 different turnouts that turned out to be inappropriate/unworkable locations, appx 3 miles south of the campground, we found our way down to the river (4WD necessary), to a beautiful spot that perfectly suited my plans.
The river was about 30 or 40 feet wide at our location, flowing gently, and about 3 feet deep at its deepest spot. I took the above pic from a sandbar that provided a sheltered spot along the shore for my almost 5yo to play in. He doesn’t know how to swim, so I didn’t allow him into the deeper locations, since I had Audrey in my arms, and, while a rescue was possible, I wanted to avoid that, if necessary. If I’d known how “swimming” this location would be, I’d have brought along his arm floaties.
I let the boys play in the shallow, protected part while I nursed Audrey…
They continued to play while I prepared our lunch, then we ate, then they worked on their pebble project (more on that, below), then they played some more.
After our last trip, which had NO pictures of Audrey, I decided to take quite a few of her this time. Here are Audrey and me, in the sheltered, shaded area of the shore, where we spent most of our time:
We had gotten a late start on this trip, and didn’t arrive until nearly 1 p.m., but the weather continued to be lovely, in the 80s when we arrived, and up into the 90s when we left, 3.5 hrs later. They would have loved to stay longer, and I regretted getting so late a start.
I should have brought along a larger blanket, b/c the area where we sat for lunch had a LOT of ants (though no one got bit!), and the most we had were two old beach towels.
Along the bank were some beautiful Catchfly Gentians. In my guide, the author notes these flowers as being rare in AZ, but there were a good 10-15 plants along the bank where we were. I collected one for pressing, and a baggie with several seed pods, so we can add these lovely flowers to our native flower garden.
I scanned and copied a page from our My Nature Journal, and slipped a copy for each boy into a page protector. They were then able to lay it on the ground, and find the appropriate pebbles, placing them on top of the page:
After all the pebbles were collected, they slipped them underneath the plastic. On Friday, we will continue this project by gluing them to the appropriate spot on the page, and adding them to our nature notebook.
The total time it took for the pebble project was less than 1/2 hr, which worked fine.
The boys then quickly returned to playing in the river. Here’s Grant, sitting in the deeper part of the river:
Well, we finally had to pack it up and head out. On our way out, we checked out the Riverside campground, which would work well for a late-Fall fishing trip. I also snapped this pic as we approached the southern end of Bartlett Lake:
So, overall, though we ended up in an unplanned location, and again, spent too much time driving (finding that just right spot), it ended up being a very successful trip. We will definitely return to this area, though we have to do so before December 1, because the area is closed for the protection of nesting Bald Eagles from Dec 1 – June 1, and in June, it would probably be too hot.
But, for a mid-September trip, it was perfect.