Kayaking the Verde River: Arizona’s Little Known Treasure Near Sedona

What could be a better way to celebrate your wedding anniversary than a trip up the hill to Sedona for a long weekend to do a little mountain biking, and hiking, and a kayaking trip on the Verde River? Did you say kayaking? In Arizona? Hmmmmmm……I am not sure I believe you……but I sure am game!

Now before I go any further I would just like to tell you that kayaking the Verde River here is amazingly fun, and it makes a great day trip from Phoenix. It’s maybe less than a 2 hour drive away, whereas from Sedona it’s about an hour. So if you’re from the valley and you have company from out of town, and if you want to show them a slice of Arizona paradise with a bit of adventure, then this is your ticket. Or if you’re visiting the beautiful state of Arizona and are looking for a bit of fun on your drive north of Phoenix then stop here, by all means!

Sedona is a very popular tourist destination these days, which makes it really hard to find a “budget-conscious” place to stay at the last minute. I found an advertisement to rent this darling room from the want ads at my place of employment, and for a great deal of just $250 for 3 night we have a gorgeous room waiting. That’s a steal for Sedona! Let me know if you want the contact info!

The next morning we decide to go for a mountain biking blitz. Our host takes us to his favorite trails. Needless to say he is a much better mountain biker than me, but he is patient with us. David doesn’t have much trouble keeping up, though. 

For our anniversary dinner we go to the Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. This place is beautiful…..albeit expensive…..and the food is excellent. Good choice! My wallet is not happy, but hey, it’s our anniversary!

For the next day I have a BIG surprise for my husband. I did not tell him what we are doing today until the last minute. We are going kayaking on the Verde River. I bought a Groupon months ago that I had meant to use in July, but we ran out of time. We were supposed to come here with Jasmine and Tristan, but they now live out on the east coast and can’t come with us. The groupon is for a 1/2 price kayaking trip on the Verde River for 4 people with a company called Sedona Adventure Tours (http://www.sedonaadventuretours.com/).

My car is not exactly a cornering machine, but soon enough we are careening wildly around each bend in the road, my tires chewing up the pavement on South Salt Mine Road near Camp Verde. The name of the road holds true to itself, by the way, as we pass by some large salt mines. Then the road turns to a dirt trail full of potholes. At one point there is a dry wash to cross, which is nearly impassible due to damage to the road from recent rains. We are pleased when we find out that we are at the right place……Beasley Flats is where we will park our car. A bus will be picking us up from this remote parking lot and bringing us upstream where we will begin our kayaking excursion. 

When we pull into the parking spot I look towards the car on my left, and much to my feigned surprise, and David’s genuine surprise, my two girlfriends are unloading gear from their trunk! When David sees them he says, “What? Do you see that?”

“Oh my gosh,” I say to David! “How on earth are ‘they’ here today? That’s so random!”

The truth be known I had invited two of my friends along without telling David! I didn’t want my Groupon to go to waste, but I also didn’t want him to know that I had friends coming along until we got here! David figures out our little secret pretty quickly, but he is happy to have company even if it is on our anniversary date! The deal was that they got the tickets from me for free, but had to bring all of us a picnic lunch to share. 

Soon enough the rattle trap shuttle bus takes us to our launch point. I don’t know how the shuttle bus doesn’t lose half of its screws as we bounce along.  After a few brief instructions from the driver, including “don’t go past the take-out point because you will end up in class 3 to 4 rapids”, we are on our way!

We have to drag the kayaks down a steep slope to the water’s edge. 

And all we have to do is paddle along. The river water is brownish in color from runoff, because it has been raining in Sedona over the last few days. I guess a few days ago the river water was bright red from a huge downpour in the red rock area of Sedona! Too bad we missed that!  

The river is fun to navigate. There are little rapids here and there, and the kayaks handle pretty well through the water. 

There are some beautiful rock cliffs along the way.

My very dear friend is with us. 

We run into a family that is using paddle boards to run the river. To me this seems a little dangerous, for if you fall in you will likely twist your ankle or knock your noggin. 

After we pull over for lunch I find these big cat prints……eeeek! By the way, the lunch was delicious! My friend had made some fresh homemade Finnish rye bread. 

Wow……check out the beautiful mountains! Arizona…….I love you!!

Wow, check out the handsome dude!

It takes us three hours to get to the end of the run. Seems to me like it was the perfect length of time to be kayaking. We need to just pull the kayaks up and out of the water, and Sedona Adventures will come and pick them up. We are back at Beasley Flat where our car is parked. I might tell you that if we had missed the take-out spot here and continued on downstream, we would be facing Class 3 to 4 rapids. We feel exhilarated, and super happy for such an awesome kayaking adventure! 


We aren’t quite done with our adventures for the day, though, because earlier today the tour guide had pointed out something interesting across the river. She told us that there are some Indian ruins on the other side that warrant some investigating, although apparently she had been chased out of there earlier this summer by a swarm of Africanized killer bees. 

Personally, I am less worried about bees and more worried about mountain lions living in the cave-like dwellings, but that’s neither here nor there. If there are Indian ruins to be explored, there are Indian ruins to be explored……danger or no danger! To me it looks like maybe the ruins are from the Sinagua Indians, the same Indians that built the cliff sweepings at Montezuma’s Castle! I zoom in with my camera. I mean, just check that out!!!

The only problem is that we will have to wade across the river to get there, because we couldn’t find a spot to park our kayaks on the other side due to the thick bulrushes. The river doesn’t look particularly treacherous to wade across, but who knows with this muddy water…..there’s no way to see the bottom. At least there are no alligators in Arizona. One of my friends is nervous about crossing the river, and tells us she won’t be coming with us. We’ll see about that!

I’m going, no matter what! Are you coming with me?