Water Wheel Falls

Trip Start Jun 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Water Wheel falls and campground is located just outside of Payson, AZ on the banks of the East Verde River. An easy to moderate walk along the river which leads you to the magical 40-foot tiered falls. The falls empty into sparkling clear plunge pools of water. Along the walk to the main falls you will encounter many stop off locations where you can relax, have a picnic, swim, or just enjoy the rustling of the water. During the summer months on the weekends the campgrounds, and the falls fill up fast as this is a popular location.

I arrived early on Friday morning as to avoid the crowds, and to hopefully get the kinds of photos I was looking to shoot. I have always been fascinated with water. Growing up in San Diego, my family often visited the ocean. As a photographer being in nature and enjoying all the aspects it has to offer inspires me. I often travel and hike alone when I'm photographing in nature. When my wife and family are with me I tend to slow them up. Plus with the life I lead I'm always on the go. So escaping in nature is my time to relax, and reflect on my life. I often listen to music while hiking and shooting. Its funny how a song while hiking can inspire a moment for me to stop and just look around.

I'm often asked what do I look for when I'm shooting. I simply tell people that for me certain things catch my eye, it might be boring to another person, but I might see it in a different light.

Upon arriving to the campground I follow the directions from the magazine that led me there. They did not say however which path to follow. Really there are only two main choices, right or left! I choose right. There was not anyone around to ask either. The path right led me "down stream" as I call it now. But non the less it was still beautiful, quite, and very peaceful.

Finding the main 40-foot water falls you need to walk to the left of the campground area, and take the far path to the left. I call this walk to the falls easy-to-moderate. There are a few areas that you need to watch your footing, and duck under some branches. If your looking to do some fishing there is a large sized pool just off to the right about 50 yards from the campground. Past that you come upon other small pools of water. One of the main large pools is a great spot to stop, have a swim in the very clear greenish-blue water. Keep going past this swimming hole about 200 yards to find the entrance of the falls that flows into another swimmng spot.

The water is beautiful, and a bit chilly for me. But there was a small family there and the kids did not seem to mind it. I met some nice people while I was there. A local girl name Sara guided me to the top of the falls, and also showed me how to climb down behind the falls. The path in between the walls seems very narrow, but that did not stop a few boys from jumping off the cliffs and into the 20+ feet of water below. Pretty crazy, they asked me to jump with them......and I said heck no! Josh one of the boys who is from Tuscon gave me his contact information so I could send them some photos in the mail. If was nice of them to allow me to take some shots of them.

That is how my day ended there. So I packed up. Grabbed a quick snack while I wrote some thoughts down, along with directions of how to get here.

From Phoenix, go north on Highway 87 to milepost 254 (about 2 miles north of downtown Payson) and turn right onto Houston Mesa Road (forest road 199). Go about 7.4 miles and pull into the Water Wheel Campground and park. The GPS coordinates to the camground are N34 21.048' W111 17.128' You can cut and paste these into Google maps.

Oh I almost forgot to tell you this. If you want a great place to eat on your drive back to Phoenix. Just south of Payson on Hwy 87 about 10 miles there is a little town with a restraunt on the east side of the road called "Dry Creek Cafe" Its a great little country-western cafe with wonderful food, and great service. If you can ask for Erin she was wonderful!
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Kim on

Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and wonderful directions.

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