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Watershed Improvement and Protection in Oak Creek

Oak Creek flows through a picturesque canyon along Highway 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona and is a popular destination for swimming, fishing, hiking, camping and other recreation. The creek is a tributary to the Verde River, which feeds into the Salt River, itself providing water to millions of people living in and around Phoenix. Oak Creek is one of the few perennial streams in Arizona’s high desert region, and provides a vital resource to people and wildlife.

In its 2006/2008 Clean Water Act 305(b) Assessment Report, ADEQ listed Oak Creek as impaired for exceeding the Escherichia coliform (E.coli) water quality standard based on water quality data. Previous studies identified recreational users, septic systems, wildlife and domesticated animals as potential sources of fecal E.coli contamination. Naturally occurring, there are many types of E.coli and some strains are harmless. However, certain strains can cause human health concerns ranging from severe anemia and kidney failure to stomach cramps and diarrhea. For this reason, ADEQ is engaging many partners to help alleviate sources of E.coli contamination in Oak Creek.

Watershed Improvement Projects

ADEQ implements on-the-ground projects in Oak Creek to help minimize E.coli contamination. Through collaborative partnerships, ADEQ is working on the following projects to improve 50+ impaired stream miles of Oak Creek:

  • Closure and rehabilitation of more than 120 informal social trails, which previously caused soil disturbances and erosion, bringing E.coli into the creek
  • Installation of barriers to reduce unpermitted parking along Highway 89A to minimize social trail use, as well as improve visitor safety
  • Construction of a fence at Slide Rock State Park to prevent unpermitted visitation, reduce potential impacts on water quality due to crowds and improve visitor safety
  • Installation of pet waste stations along established trails to encourage cleaning up after pets and keeping dog waste out of the creek
  • Support of litter clean-up events, which have already removed thousands of pounds of trash that would have otherwise attracted wildlife and along with it, their fecal waste

Project partners include:

U.S. Forest Service | View Website >
Arizona State Parks & Trails | View Website >
Oak Creek Watershed Council | View Website >
National Forest Foundation | View Website >
Arizona Conservation Corps | View Website >

Get Involved

Follow these tips to help preserve and protect Oak Creek and prevent E.coli contamination:

Protect Our Waters by cleaning up trash and following ADEQ’s healthy beach habits | Learn More >
When you visit Oak Creek or another wild place, practice Leave No Trace principals | Learn More >

Learn More

2010 Total Maximum Daily Loads for E.coli in Oak Creek and Spring Creek | View >
2012 Watershed Improvement Plan for Oak Creek | View >