East Verde River--Water Wheel Falls trailhead

East Verde River--Water Wheel Falls trailhead

Tonto National Forest Payson, Arizona 85541

East Verde River - Discover Gila County

About East Verde River

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The East Verde River is a tributary of the Verde River. Beginning on the Mogollon Rim near Washington Park, it flows generally southwest through Gila County and the Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix. Near the middle of its course, it passes within about 5 miles of Payson, which is southeast of the river. The East Verde River flows through parts of the Mazatzal Wilderness west of Payson.

The Salt River Project (SRP) supplements the natural flows on the East Verde River with water pumped from Blue Ridge Reservoir on East Clear Creek in Coconino County. The water travels 17 miles by pipeline to the East Verde at Washington Park, from whence it flows toward the Verde River and the SRP reservoir behind Horseshoe Dam. A significant fraction of the Blue Ridge water release of 11,000 acre-feet a year is allocated to communities along or near the East Verde River. The U.S. Congress has set aside 3,000 acre-feet a year for Payson and 500 acre-feet for other northern Gila County communities.

Notable Trails

If you have a love for waterfalls and unique rock walls then this place is for you! Scenic views and gushing water gives this place excitement with every step!

​A short and easy out and back hike for adventurers of all ages with scenic waterfalls along the entire trip!  Starting at the Water Wheel day use area you will simply follow the well-traveled path that meanders alongside the creek. You will reach the first significant waterfall within minutes which is also a great swimming hole and cliff jumping area! But wait, there is more! Proceed upstream to yet another decent-sized waterfall which some call "Bridal Veil Falls" once you see it you will realize the name is pretty self-explanatory.

​The main attraction is still ahead, just keep following the distinct trail upstream Ellison Creek making the easy bypass around Bridal Veil Falls, and venture onward for about 1/4 of a mile and you will soon be greeted by the famous Ellison Creek Waterfall and Swimming Hole"

​It's hard to explain just how beautiful the area really is until you see it in person! Cool mountain creek water gently cascades about 80-90ft from the top of the gradual waterfall into a deep pool surrounded by large cliff walls. Spectacular would be considered an understatement for this Mogollon Rim Country treasure. There is a giant tree log stuck in the pool from a flash flood long ago that gives the area its iconic look, it has been carefully carved to imitate a natural staircase, it is a gorgeous sight but just watch your step if you plan on climbing on it because it is very slick!

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