Located within the Coconino National Forest in North-Central Arizona, the proposed Sedona Verde Valley Red Rock National Monument (Map) is approximately 80,000 acres of what many describe as some of the most beautiful lands in America. The Monument has been inhabited for 14,000 years from the earliest of Indian tribes to a growing permanent population today. Its singular beauty also draws millions of visitors annually. The Forest Service recognizes this region for its high and very high scenic value, the ultimate value of the Forest Service’s rating system.
Often referred to as Red Rock Country, the distinct landscape of monumental buttes, soaring multi-hued cliffs, fantastic towering spires and rugged canyons bombard the eye and the senses. However, it is the area’s lush riparian tracts that likely drew the Monument’s first inhabitants and continues to make the area very livable today. A number of Native American tribes, such as the Hopi and Yavapai-Apache, established numerous sacred sites here, some of which are still used in religious ceremonies.
Early American Indian history is clearly and often demonstrated in over 800 inventoried archaeological locations with an estimated 2000+ yet to be inventoried. Archaeologists have described this region as being more antiquity dense than any other area in the American Southwest.
Unique in a desert environment, the Monument’s seven biological zones provide an environment rich in wildlife with abundant and diverse plant species. The region lies in a high desert transition zone between the great Sonoran Desert to the south and the geologically significant Colorado Plateau to the north. Its history spans prehistoric people and early indigenous tribes such as the Hohokum and Sinagua.
Three gateways lead into the Monument area. Each roadway has been designated as either a State of Arizona or National Scenic Highway. State Highway 179 runs from the south through the unincorporated community of the Village of Oak Creek. Designated as Arizona’s first National Scenic Byway and the first National All-American Road, it takes travelers past famous Bell and Courthouse Rocks. One can also catch a glimpse of iconic Cathedral Rock, the image of which was chosen by Arizona for its U.S. postage stamp to exemplify the state’s beauty. From here one can also see Lee Mountain and Munds Mountain Wilderness Area. The traveler then arrives in the City of Sedona where the forest surrounds and is integrated into the city and lives of its residents.
Entry from the west is through the historic towns of Camp Verde, the city of Cottonwood, and the town of Clarkdale. From Cottonwood state highway 89A, designated Dry Creek State Scenic Highway, takes visitors east through grasslands that merge into pinon pine and juniper forests topped by the distinctive red cliffs of the Secret Mountain Wilderness. The historic mining town of Clarkdale is the gateway to Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, another lavish riparian habitat fed by perennial Sycamore Creek which winds its way through Arizona’s second largest canyon.
The third entry point is from the north and the city of Flagstaff via state highway 89A, which has been designated as Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon State Scenic Road, the first in the state to earn this title. Rand McNally rated this portion of 89A as “One of the Top Scenic Drives in America”. The two-lane road winds downward through a canyon of memorable and singular sights. Massive rock formations peek through rich greenery while Oak Creek, an Outstanding Waterway, meanders alongside the road, passing the West Fork of Oak Creek, which has been designated as a Research Natural Area due to the unique plant species found there. Campgrounds and day use areas welcome visitors while numerous trails lead hikers up and into the canyon for arresting views from high above the canyon floor. Oak Creek Canyon is also the eastern boundary of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and is home to the Wilson National Recreation Trail, one of only three in Arizona.
One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery. – Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water