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Hassayampa River

The word Hassayampa is an old Indian word that means “the river that flows upside down.” All tributaries on the west side of the Bradshaws flow into the Hassayampa. It is another one of Arizona’s longer rivers spanning just over 100 miles. Through the years, 37, I have been able to hike and explore most of this river system and several side tributaries, from the head waters to a few miles below the Hassayampa Preserve. The long stretches between the town of Wickenburg to Baseline Road, I have seldom visited and prefer the higher river portions.
The Hassayampa originates as a small spring on the north side of Mount Davis. When the river reaches Potato Patch many strong springs push its water above ground and create a year round stream. The stream continues to flow most of the year until reaching Buzzard Roost Creek near the FS Road 72. From this point to Wickenburg, it holds to its name and pops up flowing above ground and later disappears underground. See the map below for areas that have continuous flows.
Old folklore predicts anyone who drinks from the river can never again tell the truth. In the late 1800’s, the term “Hassayampers" began to be used and defined a person who came to the river in search for gold.
Below I have divided up sections of the river so you can plan visits to the river portions that draw you. The images begin at the headwaters and follow the river downstream in order.


Mount Davis to Buzzard Roost Creek
Here the river flows through lush plant and pine forests attracting numerous wildlife. As it gets closer to Buzzard Roost Creek, it becomes harsh and rocky. Fish thrive where the water flows and swimming holes are heavily visited during hot summers. Some areas are on private property, so respect and ask permission.

Headwater Spring fed stream

Near Potato Patch

Near Hassayampa Lake

Between Maxton and Wolf Creek


Above Wolf Creek

Between Maxton and Wolf Creek

Between Maxton and Wolf Creek


Near Ponderosa Park

Above Copper Creek

Hassayampa Hole

Hassayampa Hole

Below Copper Creek

Near Orofino Wash
Buzzard Roost Creek to Minnehaha Creek
The river widens and flows above ground year around. Lush riparian areas meander through large ranches which use these waters for cattle and crop growing. The historic bridge, listed in the National Registry of Historical places, is above a beautiful access point. Indian ruins and rock art can be found nearby for adventurous.

Buzzard Roost Creek area

Near Middle Water Creek

Near Collins Spring

Below Collins Spring

Below Historic Bridge

Near Walnut Grove

Below Walnut Grove

Milk Creek area
Minnehaha Creek to Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness
Here again the river plunges into a remote beautiful canyon flowing year around. Willows and cottonwoods flourish but few venture into this area. Many years ago a wooden dam, creating a large lake, broke staging Arizona’s worst disaster. On February 22, 1890, the dam burst on a dark rainy night. Mining camps and towns, downstream were completely decimated by the massive wall of water. It’s believed over 100 people perished. Wickenburg, too, was flooded. Since the dam site is on private property, contact us for a tour.

Below Minnehaha Creek

Old historic dam site

Above wilderness boundary

Near Wilderness boundary

Near Wilderness boundary
Northern Boundary to Southern Boundary of Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness
The United States Congress designated the Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness (map)
in 1990 to include the 12,300 acres under BLM (Bureau of Land Management) management. To access this wilderness, most hikers travel from Wickenburg on the Constellation Road toward the Williams Ranch, a total of about 16 miles. You need to ask for permission to cross ranchland until you reach the nearby Wilderness boundary that is about a 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Even though this area is wilderness, you will find it over grazed and plenty of cow pies to avoid. Consider another route seldom taken. Take the Wagner Road above the wilderness area and drop into the canyon via Cherry Creek. Here a four wheel drive road accesses the river. You will find it less used by cattle and very secluded. The wilderness boundary is about a 2 ˝ mile hike downstream.

North end of wilderness

Middle wilderness


Aquatic vegetation in wilderness pools

Southern Boundary Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness to Box Canyon
The river intermittently flows underground. There are several beautiful riparian sections here. Most of this section can be traveled by ATV and has become a popular destination accessed through Rincon Road. Old abandoned mining camps dot the landscape. Box is a water carved quarter mile slot canyon. A gauging station is located on the Southern end. About a mile below Box Canyon the river flows underground.

Below wilderness boundary

Below wilderness boundary

Near King Salomon Gulch

Old mining camps, mill sites and mines

Box Canyon

Box Canyon

Box Canyon

Box Canyon

Near Box Canyon

Below Box Canyon

Popular ATV area below Box Canyon
Box Canyon to Hassayampa River Preserve
A mile below Box Canyon the river opens into sand, the water plunges deep underground and reappears shortly below Highway 93 Bridge, Wickenburg. Again it reappears creating permanent flow through a riparian forest. Visit the Hassayampa River Preserve where displays and trails detail this unique river system. The preserve offers a birder's paradise and has been managed by The Nature Conservancy since 1986. Over 280 species have been spotted within the preserve. The menu offered, ranges from ranger led nature walks to baking mesquite bread in the preserve’s earth ovens. Visit their website here.

River crossings

Side canyon below Box Canyon

Below Hassayampa River Preserve

Above Rincon Road

Picsay Hassayampa River Preserve

Picsay Near Hassayampa River Preserve

Above Wickenburg
Hassayampa River Preserve to Baseline Road
A couple of miles below the Preserve, the river disappears underground, flows underground below I10, and emerges just below Baseline Road, only flowing due to flash floods. Below the Preserve is a roadside rest area that presents another hiking opportunity to flowing waters.
Picsay Below Hassayampa River Preserve

Picsay Below Hassayampa River Preserve

Near Red Cliff

Near Dos Palmis Well

Interstate 10 

Above Interstate 10

Below Interstate 10

Above Baseline Road

Baseline Road
Baseline Road to Gila River
Years of flooding have created fertile soil where alfalfa and cotton thrive, producing farms fields along the river banks. Water spillage originating from irrigation overflow create a year round flowing stream again. In places, sunfish, carp, and bass thrive in hard-to-reach pools. The thick riparian forest holds tamarisk, willow and cattails. In the winter, larger water reliant birds visit this section that is seldom visited, Excellent bird viewing and photographing opportunities exist here, just outside Phoenix. Soon the Hassayampa ends flowing into the Gila River completing its 100 mile journey.

Great birding area

Below Baseline Road

Below Baseline Road

Near Johnson Road

Near Narromore Road

Near Gila River
I have indicted areas that have consistently held water even during the 10 drought. During wet cycles and summer flash flooding, other portions may flow. Never hike river bottoms during summer monsoon season.
Click on the map to view “normal” water flow areas.


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