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Driving Directions

GPS Coordinates: N 34° 39'43.37"
W 111° 57'51.25"; elev is 3,356 ft.

From Flagstaff: Travel south on I-17 to Camp Verde, Exit 287. Turn off on Hwy 260 and travel northwest about 8 miles. The preserve is on the right, between mileposts 212 and 211.

From Phoenix: Follow I-17 north to Hwy 260 and travel northwest about 8 miles. The preserve is on the right, between mileposts 212 and 211.

From Prescott: Travel south on Hwy 69 to Dewey, then northeast on Hwy 169 to the I-17 junction. Take I-17 north to Hwy 260 and travel northwest about 8 miles. The preserve is on the right, between mileposts 212 and 211.

Note: Hwy 89A from Prescott to Cottonwood is not recommended. Helpful Hint! Follow signs to Alcantara Vineyard.

 


 


 

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Sheep Crossing
A Yearly Verde Event!

Photo gallery of sheep crossing and nature trail photos below.


VERDE NATURE TRAIL GUIDE

 

 
  Beauty abounds far and very near! Photographer M. Bard treats us to some visual delights along the Verde Nature Trail.




 


This guide is written as if you were starting the Nature Trail beginning at the bottom and climbing to the top.  If traveling from the top down—then read it from the end to the front.

1. CRUCIFIXION THORN – Also known as Canotia.  This tree or shrub is distinguishable from the Palo Verde, which it replaces to the north, by the more crowded upright branches and twigs that are in broom-like masses.  The green, thorn-like branches manufacture food, requiring less water than leaves do.  It is characterized by an egg shaped, reddish-brown capsule that is hard and splits open.  Notice the small shrub size to the right.

 

  1. SKUNKBUSH – Also known as Squawberry Bush or Squawbush.   This shrub is most commonly found in brushy and rocky areas.  The height may grow to 7 feet.  Loses its leaves in winter the flowers tiny spike-like clusters in the spring before the leaves appear.  Fruit is sticky and red in summer.  A great food source for desert animals.

    

3A. CATCLAW ACACIA – It is also known as the “wait-a-minute” bush, because of the curved cat-claw-like thorns that grab hold and often tear clothing and flesh.  Flowers in May and attracts the honeybees.  One reason, the cowboys of the old west, wore chaps.  Loses its leaves in winter and a true teller of spring by the production of its leaves long after it is safe from a freeze.

 

3B. HONEYBEAN MESQUITE – Also called Mesquite Bush.  Thorns are straight, longer than the cat-claw and sharp.  Flowers May through July producing long sweet pods (bean-like) that ripen in autumn, providing food for livestock and other animals.  This bean was once a staple in the diet of desert Indians.  Roots of the is bush have been known to reach a depth of 50 to 60 feet to tap sources of ground water.  Dried branches are great for BBQing steaks.

 

4A. SOAPTREE YUCCA - Very common Yucca throughout the southwest.  Named for its soapy material contained in the roots.  Indians used the native plant for making shampoo and soap.  They also used the palms for making sandles and baskets.  Cattle love the flower stalks that usually bloom May through June and some folks have been known to sprinkle blossoms on their salads.  The chopped palms serve as an emergency food source for other critters during winter and droughts.  This is the New Mexico state flower.

 

   4B. DESERT HOLLY – The holly like leaves are often used in household decorations.  The shrub flowers February through April with small, bright yellow flowers.  Fruit is red round and berry-like and prominent during the summer months.  In the winter the Desert Holly appears silvery in color.

 

4C. RANGE RATANY – A low, graying, twiggy shrub that loses its leaves in winter.  April brings about its leaves and it flowers a reddish purple blossom April through October.  Most commonly found on desert slopes and flats among the Creosote Bush.  This shrub is located about 20 feet up the trail from marker #4 on the right of the trail.  Confused sometimes with the Feather Dalea.

 

4D.  HEDGEHOG CACTUS – This one is located in the middle of the Ratany Bush above.  A common type of cacti located in our Upper Sonoran Desert Region.  Usually melon shaped and sometimes confused with the Barrel Cactus and Claret Cup (orange blossom) cactus.  This one blooms a bright purple flower in early summer.

 

5A.  PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS – Also called the Plains Pricklypear.  These cacti are characterized by large pads that spread across the desert floor (unlike the Beavertail Cactus that have small pads and stack higher, notice a Beavertail Cactus on the Ranger Station Island).   This sample is very small therefore quite young in age compared to larger ones.  It blossoms April through June, and is first yellow and then turns a soft pink.  Fruit called pears are purple when mature and eaten by birds, rodents and Indians.

  

5B.  FEATHER DALEA – Also called Feather Peabush.  This is a low, scraggly, almost thorny shrub with tiny leaves and lavender flowers with little feather-like hairs.  Flowers March through May.  Sometimes confused with Range Ratany.  It also loses its leaves in winter and therefore is hard to identify during these months.

 

6A.  MORMON TEA – Also called Longleaf Ephedra.  There are many different species that grow throughout the southwest.  Usually are 3 to 4 feet tall and are characterized by yellow-green stringy stems.  Often confused with a small Crucifixion Thorn but are softer to touch.  Pioneers brewed a palatable drink from dried stems.  Indians considered the brew a tonic and used it in the treatment of diseases.  The drug ephedrine comes from a Chinese member of the genus.

 

6B.  CREOSOTE BUSH – Sometimes called Greasewood.  Flowers most of the year but profusely in April and May, producing fuzzy, white globular fruits.  This bush can endure long droughts.  After rains it gives of a musty odor suggestive of creosote (even though not related to the chemical).  Indians believed it to have medicinal value to cure coughs, colds, ulcers and arthritis pain, by making a tea from certain portions.  They also used the laic found in branches to mend arrows and pottery.

 

7.     DESERT RED ANTS – These large red ant hills are found quite abundantly throughout the trail and on the preserve.  Not a popular place to stand in the spring, summer or fall.  The ants bite and leave an irritating sting and for some there may be an allergic reaction.  During the winter, they hibernate and it is a good time to through the collection of tiny rocks and search for coral and turquoise beads that the Indians may have left behind.  Not to be confused with fire ants.

 

8.    DESERT CLIFFROSE – Also known as the Quinine Bush because of its bitter taste.  The leaves usually persist through winter with flowers through the summer months.  The flowers give off a pleasant fragrance and develop into dry fruit with feathery plumes.  It prefers limestone soils and cliffs, sometimes planted for erosion control.  Very commonly seen in the Grand Canyon.  Its’ bark was used by the Indians for making rope and clothing.

 

9A. BANANA YUCCA – Also called the Broadleaf Yucca or Spanish Dagger.  It has broader palms and blossoms earlier than the Soaptree (April through May).  Blossom is fleshy and sometimes resembles a bunch of bananas.  Prefers rocky soils in deserts.  The baked fruit tastes somewhat like a sweet potato.

 

 

9B. SQUAW PEAK – A mountainous point located south of us overlooking the town of Camp Verde (Verde means GREEN).  Its’ true name is Mt Thomas and is approximately 7,000 feet in elevation.  Some campers parked in A or B section may receive better TV reception pointing their antennas there.

 

10A. DESERT CHRISTMAS CACTUS – Very common along desert flats and slopes, its’ name is derived from the red fruit and green stems.  Flowers May through June and may appear inconspicuous, but the red fruits are eye-catchers during all the months of the year.  Be careful not to touch the frits because of the invisible-like thorns that will be hard to remove, as well as abundant and very irritating to the skin.

 

10B.  SNAKEWEED – Very common, low growing weed.  Throughout the southwest particularly on overgrazed range lands and desert clearings.  Most abundant on dry hills and mesas 3,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation, blossoming June through October.  Plants of this genus are reported as poisonous to sheep and goats if eaten in quantity, but are rarely grazed.  Characterized in summer by small densely crowded yellow or green flowers.

 

 11.  SIESTA BLUFF – Here you see a view of the preserve well (fenced area below) which is 600 feet in depth and provides all water necessary for a 300-acre preserve.  From here the water is pumped up to two storage tanks near the Ranger Station.  Notice the Verde River and the Dam area below.  There is a desert wash to your right that provides critter habitat and flash flood and monsoon season runoff.  The sheep travel through this wash as well during Sheep’s Crossing in May.  Also notice the limestone cliffs above the river and the Cottonwood trees below the well.

 

12.      INDIAN RUIN LOOKOUT – Perched upon the white limestone cliffs above Oak Creek you can see the Oak Creek Ruin.  Bought by the Northern Arizona Archeological Conservancy to preserve and protect it.  It dates back to around 1300 to 1400 A.D.  Found to be in one of the best conditions of the ruins in this area that were inhabited by the Sinagua Indians.  Two original walls are still standing and you can see other broken down walls to the north that have been severely vandalized.  It was believed to have been a ceremonial-type dwelling or “kiva” because of the large room and ground depression inside the dwelling.  The Arizona Sites Stewards program watches over this location and reports visitors to the Yavapai County Sheriffs Department.  We encourage campers to appreciate the history from here.  Also while walking through this straighter area of the trail notice the Sagebrush along the right side of the trail.  Pick some and smell the strong sage scent.

 

13.      ONE-SEED JUNIPER – One of the two evergreens that grow native on the preserve, grows well at our elevation of 3,300 feet.  It is an excellent source of firewood.  Animals feed off the berries that are very abundant and also referred to as cones.

 

14A.  WOLFBERRY – Notice the shrub here with long thorny branches (no leaves in winter), leafy, and full of berries.  Also known as Desert Thorn or Anderson Lycium.  The berries are an excellent food source for desert animals.

 

   14B.  MOUNTAIN VIEW – Looking North along the horizon through two phone poles, you can see the San Francisco Peaks (on a clear day).  The highest of the three is Humphrey’s Peak at 12,623 feet in elevation.  To the west you can see the nearby mountains of Mingus Mountain and the town of Jerome (elevation 5,246 feet) which is located on Woodshute Mountain.

  

CRITTER WATCH – Animals and Reptiles commonly heard and seen on the preserve and along the trail:

 

1.        Rabbits – both Cottontail and Jackrabbit

2.        Lizards – Whiptails, Collard Lizards, Chuckwallas, Gila Monsters

3.        Spiders – Tarantulas and Chimney

4.        Snakes – Rosy Boa, King Snakes, Rattlers and Gopher Snakes

5.        Squirrel – Ground and Rock Squirrels

6.        Birds – Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Gambel’s Quail, Great Horned Owl, Hummingbird, Raven, Rock Wren, Cardinal, Western Tanager, Roadrunner, Killdeer, Sparrows, Oriole, Blue Heron, Golden Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Morning Dove

7.        Others – Skunk, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Gray Fox, Coyote, Collard Peccary (Javelina), Mule Deer, Scorpions, Centipedes, Bats, and Gophers.

8.        River habitat – Raccoon, Beaver and Bullfrogs

 

SHRUBS AND TREES SEEN AROUND THE PRESERVE:

 

       Apache Plume

       Rabbit Brush

       Desert Willow

       Desert Broom

       Tamarask (Salt Cedar)

       Seep Willow (Creek Willow)

       Cottonwood

 

NATIVE WILDFLOWERS SEEN ALONG THE TRAIL:

 

       Desert Paintbrush

       Threadleaf Groundsel

       Spreading Fleabane

       Blackfoot Daisy

       Trailing Four O’Clock

       Desert Globemallow

       Loco Weed

       Chihuahua Flax

       Rattlesnake Weed

       Sego Lily

       Wild Onion

       Freckled Milkvetch

       Fringed Gromwell

       Desert Marigold

       Filaree

       Brittlebush

       Fagonia

 

 

NATIVE WILDFLOWERS SEEN ALONG THE TRAIL

(CONTINUED):

 

       Purple Cymompterus

       Arizona Blue Eyes

       Wild Heletrope

       Gilia

       Larkspur

       Musk Thistle

       Desert Mariposa

       Scarlet Gaura

 

NATIVE WILDFLOWERS ALSO SEEN AROUND THE PRESERVE AND RIVER AREA:

 

Cliff Penstomen

Desert Star

Prickle Poppy

Goddings Verbena

Sacred Datura (Southwestern Thornapple, Jimson Weed)

White Horsenettle

Wild Rhubarb (Indian Rhubarb)

Woolly Mullien

Antelope Horns

 

 

Written by: Audrey Islas

Computerized by: John Christman

 

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