By Hartt Wixom
I think Sedona, Ariz. is incredibly beautiful. Obviously, so do a lot of other people . . .
I’d long read about the place. I had to visit. But I could quickly see that both city and local trout stream are being loved to death. Oh, the people thronging the elite boutiques and shops don’t seem much bothered by one another. The problem is in nearby Oak Creek Canyon.
I intended to fish there. First concern was finding a parking spot. You can’t pull off just anywhere. A forest ranger told me there are some 200 families who live in the canyon. That adds up to a good many “No Trespassing” signs. The first two pull offs I entered said “No parking here.” Even after buying a $5 permit to stop somewhere in the canyon, the picnic or campgrounds are another $10 apiece. Then when I did find a place to put the car, I found people swimming and playing in the water.
Two possible fishing holes were set up with guitars and drums, an informal musical concert. I had to skip another good looking pool where a family of five was reading and dangling feet in the water.
Well…they were there first. So be it. But for one accustomed in southern Utah and other parts of the West to a modicum of seclusion or open water, it was a mite frustrating. I’d gone at mid-week to avoid crowds. I wouldn’t want to see it on a Saturday. (I did find some left-alone water high in the upper canyon.)
I’d read about fair fishing on Oak Creek, although it is admittedly mostly a put-and-take hatchery trout proposition. I was apparently there between hatchery trucks. A forest ranger said some brown trout were occasionally taken. I didn’t find any of those although plying a big black woolly bugger which usually fetches that species elsewhere.
Doing some experimenting , my best offering was a prince nymph. The water was relatively low and clear for April. (You want to get there when temperatures are warm enough to induce hunger but not enough to trigger roily runoff.) Although I could have caught more fish in Dixie, I did enjoy the experience. Every one ought to see Sedona at least once in a lifetime.
It is that scenic. Not because of the crimson cliffs; they can’t outdo St. George-Kanab in that regard. But the spires and buttes, pinnacles and rock formations located as they are between Ponderosa pine forest and desert are sublimely interspersed. The community, of course, has built up right alongside it all so that even the shoppers can enjoy the outdoor splendor.
Sedona is quite different from say, Jackson, Wyo. , where you can’t even seen the Tetons from downtown. Or West Yellowstone, Mont. where there is no hint other than signs that Yellowstone is nearby. As for festivities, I’d call Sedona the Park City of Arizona with a little of the Las Vegas glitter thrown in. The challenge for city fathers, however, is to keep the natural look among all that growing glitter. Even now, business and condos are obscuring some of the famous landscape.
But back to Oak Creek Canyon. To be fair, much is being done in an effort to protect it. Witness all the pay stations apparently designed to discourage too much usage. But the many homes here within the boundaries of the Coconino National Forest make one wonder why so little planning was done to look out for the general public. To be true, there is a state park and fee parking areas but the human tide has simply overwhelmed it. The signs of man and litter are everywhere. While fishing is catch and release (no barbed hooks), it doesn’t seem to have curtailed much of the traffic.
Of course, I’m biased. People playing drums and flutes along the bank are one way to enjoy the tumbling waters. Fishermen moving around constantly are in the way. I did my best to avoid invading the privacy of people perched streamside. To do that, I had to skip the inlet flow of a riffle where most of the fish could be expected to feed. The canyon does have many attractions for the general public but fishing is in conflict with much of it.
The entire Sedona region has many hiking trails but no more so than we do in Dixie. One thing they do have, little seen around here, is a myriad of jeep tours. They go everywhere, including back and forth through town. There is after all, plenty of scenery there too. You might see wildlife. I saw no elk but elk crossing signs are in abundance coming and going.
Sedona is reached from Dixie by driving southeast of Fredonia some 190 miles to Flagstaff and then south another 40 miles via U.S. 89 through twisting and looping Oak Creek Canyon. Or you can avoid the canyon by going south from Flagstaff via I-17 and connecting with 89 some 25 miles south of Sedona.