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Featured Campground
May 2005
Manzanita Campground

During 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.


I 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.

Once 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.

Heading back to Manzanita Campground, I took in the surrounding area with a few photos.


Some 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. The Swimming Hole at Mazanita Campground
The swimming hole just below the campground. Click to enlarge.
A Campsite at Manzanita Campground There 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 Cave 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.

Slide Rock State Park is located just 1 mile upriver and can become quite crowded during the summer.

To the right is Oak Creek just below the campgrounds. There are several plunge pools above this one and a nice riffle below this pool.

Oak Creek Flows Just Below Manzanita Campground

For additional photos of the area surrounding Manzanita, click any of the thumbnails below.

Manzanita Campground Pictures Manzanita Campground Pictures Manzanita Campground Pictures Manzanita Campground Pictures Manzanita Campground Pictures


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