Springtime kayaking on the Verde River in the Sedona/Cottonwood area offers a unique way to experience one of the longest perennial streams in Arizona—and one of only two rivers in the state classified as Wild and Scenic. Although this region is famed for its red rocks, the geology evolves as you float down the Verde: views of mountains and limestone hills, caves used by prehistoric cultures, and sycamore, cottonwood, and willow trees. This diverse riparian area teems with wildlife, too—from great blue heron, coyotes, mule deer, and beavers to threatened or endangered species such as river otter and southwestern bald eagles.
Depending on the outfitter you choose, there are several ways to float your boat, including half-day guided tours or DIY options with a shuttle service and all the necessary gear, including kayaks, paddles, and PFDs. As a Class 1 river, the Verde offers a generally peaceful, family-friendly ride that doesn’t require past kayaking experience. (Even on the self-guided tours, you’ll receive brief instructions on basic paddling and safety.) Although there are occasional short sections of Class 2 chutes and riffles in some parts of the river, you won’t need to navigate any raging whitewater.
If you’re interested in combining wine tasting with paddling, Sedona Adventure Tours’ “Water to Wine” outing gets rave reviews. This guided tour begins with a one-hour Ducky Kayak trip and ends with a 90-minute tasting at the Tuscan farmhouse at Alcantara Vineyards.
Clarkdale Kayak Company focuses on a section of the Verde that the town of Clarkdale only offers roughly 9,000 annual customer units to float and enjoy. It’s a particularly beautiful, diverse and wild segment of the river that also offers glimpses of ancient cliff dwellings.