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Oak Creek | Leave No Trace

Surface Water Improvement | Oak Creek

Be an Oak Creek Caretaker

Posted on: Aug. 31, 2023 - 2:38 p.m.

Oak Creek is a beautiful and important part of Arizona’s canyon country. This creek provides a valuable source of drinking water and fun for out-of-state and international visitors and Arizona residents of the Sedona-Flagstaff and Phoenix areas. Oak Creek is one of the few perennial streams in Arizona’s high desert region and provides a vital resource to people and wildlife. 

However, Oak Creek is under threat and needs your help. About 4 million people a year visit the Oak Creek watershed to enjoy its scenic beauty, refreshing swimming holes, and recreational sites. All of these visits have the potential to impact the health of the creek and add pollution. Impacts to water quality, plants and animals, and other peoples’ experiences are all affected by so many visitors in a small area. ADEQ, several other agencies, and partner groups are working to lessen these impacts to Oak Creek and surrounding areas to improve and protect public health and the environment | Learn More > 

Program Coordinator 
Ph: 602-771-0367
Email > 

What Can I Do To Help?

Practice these Leave No Trace tips while visiting to do your part. 

Tip #1 | Have a Poop Plan

Poop in the form of human and pet waste or diapers can pollute water and gross-out other visitors. Use the restrooms provided at trailheads and day-use areas. Oak Creek Canyon is too steep and busy to go to the bathroom outside and not add significant pollution to the water source. It is never advisable to poop or pee near the creek. In an emergency, the cat-hole method can help with decomposition, but know that this will still add contaminants to the creek | Watch a Video >

At Oak Creek with small children or your dog?

  • Here is a diaper hack — Wrap a sealable bag in duct tape to have a discrete, durable, and sealable way to pack out diapers. Drybags can be an excellent option | Learn How >

  • Here is a dog poop bag hack —Take your dog poop all the way to a trash can or make your own DIY pack out bag that is a smell-proof, reusable dog poop carrier | Learn How >




 A designated restroom in Oak Creek Canyon
Person walking on an official hiking trail in Oak Creek Canyon.

Tip #2 | Stick To Trails

Trails give us a place to explore while leaving the rest of the landscape intact for nature to flourish. Leaving the trail can damage plants, stress out wildlife, and be dangerous. Arizona is also home to living soil crusts, avoid busting the crust | See How > 

Did you Know? 
As few as 25 footsteps can already start to create a new trail. Stick to the trail to stay safe and Leave No Trace.


Until recently, over 400 user-created trails led from the highway to the creek in Oak Creek Canyon. That's far more than necessary. Don't you agree? ADEQ, the USFS, and partner organizations have restored most of these erosive, habitat-damaging trails while improving others to maintain safe visitor access to the creek. To find these designated trails look for signs with the creek access decal or gaps in fences. 

Thanks for accessing the creek safely and keeping our impacts on Oak Creek’s aquatic and creekside wildlife to a minimum.v

Tip #3 | Trash Your Trash

Pack everything out, even fruit peels and other food waste can last years when left outside. Trash can make wildlife sick and change their habits. Several of the species here are threatened, endangered, or sensitive. Lower Oak Creek is designated as an important bird area | Learn More >

Let’s take everything to a trash can or recycling bin. Dog poop receptacles are not large enough for trash items and should only be used for pet waste. If a trash can is full, find another trash can or, better yet, take it home with you. Wildlife such as ravens and crows disperse the trash or eat it which is unhealthy and promotes negative behaviors.

Did You Know?

Aluminum cans can last 100 years, and plastic never completely goes away. How long do other items take? | Find Out >



Tip #4 | Protect Watersheds

Oak Creek Canyon is a watershed. Think of a watershed as a giant earth-sized funnel. That means anything we do in this area can end up in the water, including contaminants and litter. Human waste causes E. coli pollution and harms the plants and animals that live here. Use restrooms and pack out all trash, including dog poop and diapers.

Volunteer to Help Oak Creek

These organizations are leading the charge to protect Oak Creek. If you are often in the Sedona area and want to give back to nature, contact them today. 

Share This Information
and Get Involved

One of the best ways to be an Oak Creek Caretaker is to share this information and help educate others. Post this to your social media and help us spread the message!

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