The Verde River Greenway State Natural Area is a unit of Dead Horse Ranch State Park and protects almost 1000 acres of riparian and upland habitat. The area, when first designated, sheltered six river miles, today it has grown to encompass 35 river miles. The area protects valuable riparian habitat in an arid state, and has a great diversity of plant, animal, and insect life.
The Greenway is contiguous with Prescott and Coconino National Forests, Tuzigoot National Monument--National Park Service, and the Verde Valley Botanical Area (VVBA)—U.S.F.S.. This connectivity makes it important habitat for wildlife and a valuable corridor. The VVBA was designated to protect three rare plants (which are also found in the Natural Area): Verde Valley sage (Salvia dorrii ssp. mearnsii), Ripley wild buckwheat (Erioganum ripleyi), and the Arizona cliff rose (Purshia subintegra). Other, more common plants along the Greenway include cottonwood (Populous fremontii), willows (Salix gooddingii and Chiopsis linearis), mesquite (Prosopis velutina), crucifixion thorn (Canotia holacantha), and greythorn (Ziziphus obtusifolia). Learn more about local plants of the Verde Valley & Sedona.
Since the Greenway encompasses so many river miles, animals are found here that are relatively rare in the rest of Arizona. American beaver (Castor canadensis) is found along the Verde River, as are an introduced species of river otter (Lontra Canadensis lataxina) and native river otter (Lontra Canadensis sonora). Mountain lion (Pumas concolor) and bobcat (Lynx rufus) are occasionally seen along the Greenway. Some of the more common animals are grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), coyote (Canis latrans), jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.), and javelina (Pecari angulatus). The Verde River Greenway is also included in the Tuzigoot Important Bird Area.
Like many areas of Arizona, the Greenway is also home to non-native plants and animals. These non-native species, also known as invasive species, arrive in a variety of ways; some species have been accidentally introduced and humans introduced some purposefully. Since many areas of the Greenway have historically been agricultural, there are abundant non-native species throughout. Some of the more common include: tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia), puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris), giant reed (Arundo donax), tumbleweed (Salsola spp.), salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), and several exotic grasses. It is also recognized that native species can also be invasive in nature such as cattails or mesquite.