Opened and Dedicated February 2024
October 16, 2008 Acquired
Rockin' River Ranch on the Verde River was brought to the attention of the State Parks Board and staff by the Nature Conservancy (TNC). The Ranch consists of 209.4 acres and adjoins both the Coconino and Prescott National Forests and private lands. It is located at the confluence of West Clear Creek and the Verde River at the southern end of Verde River Greenway State Natural Area.
The Ranch was in private ownership and operated as a guest ranch with horse riding and boarding facilities. The property served as a staging area for trail rides on the Ranch and the adjoining National Forest land. Primary access is off Salt Mine Road and across Forest Service property. Improvements to the property prior to State Parks acquisition included a large main residence/ lodge, guesthouses, bunk house with an office, two barns, outbuildings, and corrals. The Ranch property is irregular in shape with land on either side of the Verde River including the main river canal. The 100-year floodplain covers over 62 acres.
There are 55 acres in flood-irrigated pastures. A mature mesquite bosque covers the remaining 100 acres.
The Verde Irrigation Ditch (aka Woods Ditch) runs through the property and includes 60 ditch shares of water that are used to irrigate approximately 54 acres of pasture and to fill the 1.6-acre storage pond. A settlement agreement reached in 2005 between the owner and Salt River Project (SRP) recognizes 55.6 acres of water right property, with associated water rights that claimed a priority date of 1889. These historic water rights are very valuable due to the strategic location of the property and the quantity of the historic right recognized by SRP. The Ranch is at the downstream extent of private properties. The associated water rights from the Verde River give Parks the right to call on junior water rights holders to deliver water. The property is one of the few in this area to have historic water rights for more than 50 acres.
The Ranch contains an approximately one-mile stretch of the Verde River that supports healthy aquatic habitat and cottonwood-willow riparian vegetation providing habitat for resident and migratory birds and a diversity of native wildlife. Protected native fish, including one federally listed species are present in the river. The property is in the foraging area for a pair of bald eagles that nest downstream. The mesquite bosque on the adjacent undeveloped terraces also provides habitat for the resident and migratory birds and native wildlife, and forms a contiguous corridor with similar habitat on the National Forest lands.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) negotiated a contract with the private property owner and purchased the Ranch in January of 2008. At the July 18, 2008 meeting, the State Parks Board authorized the executive director to purchase the property with Natural Areas Acquisition Funds. Rockin' River Ranch was acquired by State Parks in October of 2008 as a part of the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. This property was named Rockin' River Ranch State Park in 2017. Master planning for the park occurred in 2017 and early in 2018. Development was scheduled to begin in 2018, but issues arose that had to be resolved prior to construction.