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Fossil Springs Day Hike
April 21, 2001
by Tom Van Lew
Water gushes down from the springs.

We met at MacDonalds on Shea and after arranging for car-pooling we moved the vehicles not going to a place near the hotel across the street. Those who attended were: Tom and Jeannie Van Lew and their dogs Sandy and Maggie, Gaurav Menon, a guest of Jeannie’s, Chuck Parsons, Glenn Kappel, Darleen Linquist, Gerry Kinley, Doug Hawkins and his dog, Stacey Brown and her daughter Stevie, Joe Michalides, Bob Saunders and his children Nathan and Lindsay, Joyce Parrish and her friend Jessica Thomas, Chuck and Peggy Giovionello.

We maintained radio contact and eventually arrived at the parking lot for Fossil Springs about 8:45 am. By 9:00 we had quickly loaded up our packs and headed down the trail. We chose not to take the group shot at the beginning of the hike in an attempt to get away from the chilling wind.

Historic log flume floated the timber downhill.
Our destination today was Fossil Springs and the dam for the Childs and Irving Hydroelectric Generating Stations. In their heyday the two plants supplied all the electrical needs of Yavapai County and by the early 1920s, the were meeting 70% of the Phoenix power needs as well. In 1976, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the plants a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Water gushing from the earth at Fossil Springs drives the Childs and Irving turbines. The water flows at a steady rate and is channeled into a steel and concrete flume where it travels five miles before reaching the Irving plant. Recently, however, the facilities will soon be decommissioned and plans are to restore flows to Fossil Creek. Restored flows will bring back the creeks unique geologic formations, known as travertine, which create the pools and waterfalls along its length.

Water, and life in Fossil Creek.

So we began our hike down the old jeep trail about 4 miles to the springs. With the mineralized water a lush environment is created which supports numerous types of bushes, trees, birds and other wildlife. We found huge brier patches alongside the trail. We discovered a number of the springs and were amazed at the amount of water gushing from them. Nearby, yellow columbine and monkey flower abound. We found evidence of camp sites and a number of backpackers in for the weekend.

We managed to continue on to the dam on the west side of the creek where we were taken to higher ground and observed caves and cave men – actually teenagers who climb the canyon walls to the cave and were jubilant in announcing they had made it.

We arrived at the dam and watched as some young men jumped off the dam to the creek below. We backtracked and ate our lunch near one of the big pools. As the sky was growing darker we began our trek back the way we came to our cars. One member temporarily lost his dog, but the two were soon reunited and we all began back up the canyon. After the last person arrived at the trailhead and we were all returning home, the sky opened up and it rained. We were quite thankful that we were all allowed to complete the hike first!

NOTE: The Giovionellos were camping near Payson and reported that it snowed that evening.
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated May 27, 2020