The Oak Creek Watershed drains a portion of the Verde River Basin beginning on the Colorado Plateau and continuing into the transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and Sonora desert, in North Central Arizona.
Water does not resist. It flows...
–Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad
Map is provided by the US Forest Service.
The Oak Creek Watershed drains a portion of the Verde River Basin beginning on the Colorado Plateau and continuing into the transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and Sonora desert, in North Central Arizona. The headwaters of Oak Creek begin at about 5,700 feet in elevation, in steep escarpments below the edge of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau.
Oak Creek is a valuable perennial stream that originates at the confluence of Sterling Springs Canyon and Pumphouse Wash. It generally flows south to its convergence with the Verde River, at about 3,200 feet in elevation. Sterling Spring discharges into a tributary of Oak Creek. This is the start of perennial flow for Oak Creek. The spring source has been developed and most of the surface flow is diverted to Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery, located downstream from the source. Spring flow used in the fish hatchery reenters the channel downstream of the source.
Basin runoff and groundwater discharge from springs provide reliable surface flows year-round. Spring peak flows inundate adjacent floodplains—along with perennial surface water and shallow subsurface water underneath adjacent floodplains—and sustain excellent lotic riparian vegetation, and rich terrestrial and aquatic communities along Oak Creek throughout the year.
According to the USGS Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model, groundwater declines of more than 100 feet will occur in the vicinity of Cottonwood, near Sedona, and along Dry Beaver Creek, near the village of Oak Creek.
With these predictions on the horizon, it is important for communities to work together to plan for resiliency. The efforts of the Oak Creek Watershed Council in collaboration with the US Forest Service are one such community commitment to plan for resiliency within the Oak Creek Watershed for sustainable flows into the future.