Arguably, one of the best hikes in Arizona is found along Wet Beaver Creek. Wet Beaver Creek is a cool, clear stream that flows all year through a very lush and scenic desert canyon. The Bell trail offers a beautiful scenery and variety of vegetation along the route to the most popular turnaround point on the trail, Bell Crossing, about 3.25 miles. The trailhead for Bell Trail is about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive north of Phoenix on Interstate I-17 and a then few miles off of the Interstate. Most people are introduced to Wet Beaver Creek by hiking this trail and swimming in the creek’s enticing waters.
Flowing on a twisted course through the Mogollon Rim, Wet Beaver Creek meanders through a sheer canyon of Supai sandstone and shale. This perennial creek has one major tributary, Dry Beaver Creek, which comes in from the north, and with this confluence at McGuireville, Arizona, the name changes to Beaver Creek. Starting at an elevation of about 6,200 feet, it enters the Verde River at 3,000 feet near Camp Verde, Arizona. The riparian forest is characterized by cottonwoods, sycamores, black walnut, ash, and alders. Year-round water provides habitat for numerous bird species and mammals.
The upper reaches of the creek is in the 6,155-acre Wet Beaver Wilderness, created by Congress in 1984 and managed by the US Forest Service. The Bell Trail and Apache Maid Trail give access to the wilderness. The Bell Trail is described at the beginning of this article; it started as a historic stock trail. After Bell crossing, the trail then climbs up to the Mogollon Rim. Upstream access is available on the Apache Maid Trail. Detailed information and maps are available through the US Forest Service.
In the mid-1800s, Anglo, European, and Mexican settlers arrive in the valley and the population increased after the establishment of Fort Verde and placement of the Yavapai Apache onto a reservation, who were then force-marched to San Carlos reservation after the loss of their reservation along the Verde River. All this gave settlers prime land for farming, ranching, and mining, and many supporting businesses.
The unincorporated towns situated along Beaver Creek are Lake Montezuma, Rimrock, and McGuireville, which straddle Interstate I-17 approximately 20 miles south of Sedona. Below these communities, the land is mostly federally owned and undeveloped until the creek meets the Verde River at Camp Verde. Each of these ranching and farming communities started in the 1870s with agriculture endeavors overlaying prehistoric farmland and dwelling sites. Lake Montezuma was settled by one of the Verde Valley’s better known pioneers, Wales Arnold in 1870, with farming at Montezuma Well. The Rimrock area was named by the dude ranch owners for the outcroppings and mesas that rimmed Beaver Creek. McGuireville was named for rancher Eugene McGuireville who settled in this area in the late 1800’s; his home is still on the very spot he homesteaded.
The Beaver Creek Regional Council was established in 2007 to foster community dialogue about important issues for the area. The website provides key information about local matters, planning, a busy calendar of activities, and recreational information.
The Beaver Creek area has grown in population from 3,344 in the 2000 census to 4,809 in the 2010 census and projected 5,080 inhabitants in 2012. Commercial and residential activities within the area have developed on predominately metes and bounds parcels, although there are a few planned subdivisions built from the early 1960s to the present. There is no municipal water and sewer infrastructure so most homes have domestic wells and septic tanks. A local water company does serve some residents. Some properties are ditch irrigated using water from the creek and Montezuma Well.
Risks to the watershed and Beaver Creek tributary include septic tanks leaks and groundwater withdrawl. Septic tanks leak both into the creek and into the groundwater. Withdrawal of groundwater from the Verde Formation at depths generally less than 500 feet below land surface have caused rapid groundwater level declines. Withdrawals totaled about 402,000 gallons per day in the Lake Montezuma and Rimrock area (Arizona Department of Water Resources 2006 estimates).A USGS monitoring well in the Verde Formation located on the west boundary of Montezuma Well recorded an annual drop of 5.3 feet since 2000. With the steady decline, the current rate of groundwater withdrawals from the Verde Formation is not sustainable. As a result, users may deepen wells. Another effect of dropping groundwater levels is lower surface water levels of Wet Beaver and Beaver creeks. Groundwater levels will decrease as the population increases.