FROM GRAPES TO GREENERY
There are Plenty of Eco-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Cottonwood and Clarkdale BY REBECCA L. RHOADES
t the far end of Old Town Cottonwood, past the tasting rooms and antique shops, where North Main Street takes a sharp curve west and heads toward neighboring Clarkdale, is an unassuming opening in the trees on the edge of a parking lot. Most visitors might overlook the break in the greenery, but a second glance REBECCA RHOADES hints at a riparian delight. Within minutes of leaving their cars, hikers find themselves on the Jail Trail—named so because it is easily accessed off the site of the old jail building. The flat trail offers a leisurely path through the surprisingly dense foliage to the shores of the Verde River, where it continues for about an hour’s walk before turning back on itself. In winter, after the leaves have turned spectacular shades of gold and russet and dropped to the ground, the bare branches give clear views of raptors and flocks of red-winged blackbirds. In spring, the area teems with even more birds—tanagers, orioles and buntings, among others. “The Jail Trail is a great place to visit if you want to get away and get back to nature,” says Michelle Masters, director of Tourism, Marketing and Events for the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees business and tourism for Cottonwood, Clarkdale and the rest of the Verde Valley. “I take my dogs there all the time. A lot of people really enjoy it because they can get up early when they’re staying in Old Town and head out for a nice 45-minute walk.” Adds Jodie Filardo, community and economic development director for the Town of Clarkdale, “It’s a great place to photograph birds. We even periodically see bald eagles on the river.”
32 greenliving | November 2017
For most Phoenix area visitors and residents, Cottonwood and, in recent years, Clarkdale are the go-to towns for wine tastings. With six vineyards and tasting rooms in Cottonwood, five in Clarkdale, and even more in nearby Jerome, Cornville and Camp Verde, the sleepy region about an hour and a half north of the capital has become wine lovers’ dream destination. But the towns are also becoming prime spots for those seeking a sustainable getaway far from the crowds of the more populated Sedona and Flagstaff. In fact, in 2015, Cottonwood and Clarkdale partnered with National Geographic to promote geotourism: “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place,” according to global nonprofit organization. One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the region is by taking to the waters of the Verde River, the longest free-flowing stream in Arizona and a center of tourism activities, including kayaking and bird-watching. “I think our biggest draw is our river,” notes Masters. “Everyone in the area has a lot of respect for the land and the water, and everything we do when it comes to that river is based on keeping it healthy and happy.” One of the most popular river attractions is the “Water to Wine” tour, which takes guests on a 1.5-hour trip down the river and ends with a wine tasting at Alcantara Vineyards. Another popular river access point for guided kayak trips can be found on the way to Tuzigoot National Monument. This ancient pueblo, build between 1125 and 1400 AD is the largest and bestpreserved Sinagua pueblo ruins in the Verde Valley. “Visitors can learn about the region’s native history, stroll around the ruins, take photos and really get the flavor of the area,” says Filardo. More than 245 species of birds have been recorded at the monument and its adjacent Tavasi Marsh.