East Verde River
The East Verde River within the Mazatzal Wilderness is the finest arm of the Verde River and an important freshwater lifeline for the diverse fish and wildlife in the surrounding Tonto National Forest. This particular 149 acre area is one of the most important freshwater ecosystems in the state.
This now protected area is designated a critical habitat for various threatened species such as the Narrow-headed Garter Snake, Northern Mexican Garter Snake, Mexican Spotted Owl and Chiricahua Leopard Frog.
The East Verde River is also home to over 10 native fish species. These include Colorado Pike Minnow, Gila Top Minnow and Razorback Sucker; Roundtail Chub; Desert Sucker, Sonora Sucker, Gila Longfin Dace and Speckled Dace.
The East Verde River is also host to Northern Goshawk, Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Bobcat, Coyote, Mountain Lion and Black Bear.
Also in this protected area are the Spanish Ruins”. These ruins sit atop a mesa west of Payson and contain a lot of dry-stacked stone walls. None of the experts can agree as to why the place was built, nor who built it. The ruins remain a mystery. Hiking to the top of the mesa provides stunning 360 views of the canyon and valley floor below.