the spring of 2005, I planned on making a stop in Oak Creek to not
only enjoy the crisp cool nights of Oak Creek during the spring
and get a little early season fly fishing in, but to check out the
damage done by the floods that rampaged the area during the winter.
My first stop was at Manzanita
Campground, the closest campground to the river and only 1/2
mile below Slide Rock State Park. For a map of the area click
here. When I first arrived, I spoke briefly with the Camp Host
Scott whom I had recognized from previous years. He told me of how
the creek had almost breached the retaining wall at the lowest of
the campsites and had actually come up to the concrete picnic tables
at those sites. Standing as high above the river as we were at a
campsite just below the restrooms, the site of the creek turned
raging river while reaching that high must have been an awesome
sight. Scott mentioned that he almost decided to pack up and let
the river take its course. He was kind enough to e-mail his photos
of the flood to me so I could share them with you. Scott said he
could feel the ground shake as large boulders were swept down river
by the floodwaters.
usually tend to camp at Manzanita for the same reasons every time.
first, I love to hear the creek from my campsite, second if the
fishing is not going as good as I hoped it would be in my favorite
spots (a.k.a. I'm really not as good of a fisherman as I tend to
think I am!), then there are always a few stockers that are willing
to bite in any given pool below Manzanita. When I first scanned
the creek for fish, I first realized that the river had changed
quite a bit from the pre-flood winter. The man made pools just below
the campground were not as prevalent. There seemed to be a longer
run just below the campground with a little less potential to fly
fish for the stockers that Arizona Game and Fish plants there every
monday during the spring, summer, and early fall.
I finished scanning the new pockets the flood had created, (I had
a hard time picking out any fish in the low light conditions), I
noticed a few browns grouping in a pocket at the far side of the
creek. After my winter-long abstinence from fishing, I worked out
the bugs in my sloppy casting and got to business. Working a size
16 orange stimulator with a black/silver size 18 disco midge as
a dropper, I had my seasons first trout, a small 11" brown!
He bit the midge. One thing new is the numerous roots sticking out
at the edge of the creek all waiting their turn to snag your fly
line, very frustrating! As the sun set, I set up camp with my dog
as company and made dinner. Hopefully the fishing will be as good
as usual at my favorite spots in the morning.
I started the
day out at one of my usual places, not my favorite spot but one
that always seems to bring a few rainbows every time I fish there.
I put on a bead head pheasant tail and had a few bites but no takers.
This seemed to be the case all day. No matter what I tried, either
there were no fish or they were very timid and did not want to take
the fly aggressively.
back to Manzanita
Campground, I took in the surrounding area with a few photos.
of the features of Manzanita Campground are plain to see. The
water flowing so close to the campsites, and fishing just steps
away. If you have kids, to break the summer heat, there is a
swimming hole just 100 yards downstream from the campground,
which also holds some of the larger trout and desert suckers
found in Oak Creek. The campground is closely knit so if privacy
is what you are look for, this campground is not for you. There
are numerous water spigots throughout the campground and a centrally
located vault toilet. The ideal setup is tent camping with one
car. Firewood can be purchased from the camp host who will usually
have some on his golf cart while he checks you in.
swimming hole just below the campground. Click
are 19 campsites available at Manzanita campground. If you want
to get one, come early. There are no reservations available
at this campground and it fills quickly over the weekend. During
the week however the pressure eases and you can generally find
a campsite. If you can't, I would suggest trying the larger
Spring Campground or Pine
Flat Campground. Shade is plentiful and almost every campground
is well shaded in the summer. Manzanita is the only campground
open year round on Oak Creek. To the left is a typical campsite
at Manzanita, with a large concrete firepit and picnic table.
Rock State Park is located just 1 mile upriver and can become
quite crowded during the summer.
the right is Oak Creek just below the campgrounds. There are
several plunge pools above this one and a nice riffle below
additional photos of the area surrounding Manzanita, click any of
the thumbnails below.