Slide Rock State Park is a state park of Arizona, United States. Located in Oak Creek Canyon 7 miles (11km) north-northeast of Sedona, the park preserves a natural water slide formed by erosion of red rock that drops more than 400 feet (120m) over one mile (1.6km). The park was established in 1971 and designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1973 under the name Oak Creek Petrified Forest State Park. In 1972, while working on an archaeological site, paleontologist George F. Beckman discovered fossilized dinosaur bones at the bottom of the cliff.
This discovery led to the establishment of the first State Park, named after the creek, which runs through it, and not the other way around as previously assumed. The petrified forest designation was added later. Slide Rock State Park features hiking trails with access to the historic Old Mormon Fort, built by Mormons during their 1838–1839 trek across the desert from New York to California. The fort served as headquarters until they reached the Salt River area, about halfway there. It has been reconstructed into a museum where visitors can learn about its history and life during the early settlement days. There are also picnic areas and campsites for overnight backpacking trips. The park’s visitor center includes exhibits featuring highlights of the park’s geology and paleontology. Fossils found at Slide Rock include those from the Early Jurassic Morrison Formation, such as dinosaurs Nodosaurus, Thescelosaurus, and Mosasaurus; and others from the Late Jurassic Kayenta Formation, such as Metoposaurus, Desmatosuchus, and Stygimoloch.
A popular local legend says that Abraham Lincoln visited the canyon when he was 12 years old, and again as president, during his 1863 visit to Arizona Territory. He supposedly took slides down the waterfall using a rope tied to a tree, although no physical evidence exists to support this claim. Lincoln probably did take a trip to the Petrified Forest area in 1862, but there is no record of him visiting Slide Rock or any other specific location. On May 9, 1970, four months before her death, actress Jean Seberg accompanied by her daughter, Ondine, signed a “contract” granting exclusive rights to use her image for a scenic driveway within the park. She subsequently died in a plane crash soon after taking off from Paris to Tucson, leaving the contract unfulfilled. However, shortly before she died, Seberg had introduced legislation creating a new federal holiday, specifically designating January 19 as “Jean Seberg Day”. Her birthday, February 22, would have been the date of her birth if she’d been born today. President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation officially establishing the day, and Congress quickly followed suit. Today, both Presidents’ Day and Mother’s Day observe similar observances.
The original idea for a national day honoring mothers came from Representative Martha McSorley, Democrat of Washington, who suggested the day be observed annually on Mother’s Day weekend. Legislation authorizing the annual celebration was passed in 1976. For some reason, however, only presidents’ wives were honored. An exception was made in 1981, when Ronald Reagan’s mother Nancy received the same treatment as all previous inaugural honorees. After two terms, though, Bill Clinton abandoned the tradition, saying that since his own mother had recently died, he preferred to remember her with events like the Memorial Day parade. When asked why he continued the practice of having a special White House event each year to honor mothers, even after his wife left office, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton explained, “It’s just become part of our country’s fabric.” Since then, every U.S. president’s mother has been honored with a gala event at the White House. In 2020, Michelle Obama became the first American mother to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. The park offers several different routes down the falls, ranging from easy to difficult. The most reliable route, according to locals, is the path along the riverbed, downstream from the main cascade.
Here, the flow of the creek is so strong that it forms a natural water slide, sliding you down the mountain face without the need for ropes or harnesses. Beyond the rapids, the creek flows into Lake Havasu, a reservoir created on the Colorado River. Downstream from the falls, another major tributary joins the stream, forming what appears to be a second fall. However, because the upper portion of the cliff is much steeper than the lower section, the second fall actually descends from the top of the cliff, above the first. Beyond the second fall, the ground becomes level again, and the creek flows into the lake.
Although dangerous due to unpredictable flash floods, this route is popular among tourists, particularly European travelers, who appreciate the novelty of riding a waterfall without risk of drowning. Because of the danger of falling rocks, hikers must wear sturdy boots. Visitors should also bring rain gear, as sudden thunderstorms may occur at any time. Another popular trail leads past the falls, up onto the mesa overlooking them. From here, there are views of the entire valley, including the numerous lakes, oases, and agricultural fields spread out below. The hike up to the overlook is fairly steep, but the view worth the effort.
At least half a dozen camping sites are available, ranging from very basic (just a cleared space with a tent pad and grill), to moderately modern (a yurt, fire ring, and picnic table), to fully modern (electricity, flush toilets, etc.). Most sites have good shade, and many provide beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. One of the most striking aspects of the landscape is the abundance of prickly pear cacti. These spiny plants grow in clumps weighing hundreds of pounds, yet stand less than three feet high. They seem to thrive in the harsh environment, providing food and habitat for rodents, lizards, and other small animals. Despite their appearance, these cacti are neither thorns nor dolefully spindly trees, but rather large, fleshy pads containing thousands of individual stems called trichomes.
Each flower head contains between 50 and 100 flowers, and blooms sporadically throughout the year, peaking in September. Prickly pear cactus in bloom View of Yavapai County, showing the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Prescott, and the west side of the mountains near the Grand Canyon. Aerial view showing the park, lake, and mountainsides covered in vegetation. Picnic shelter and parking lot Area outside the visitor center Open air theater Scenic outlook Sign explaining the formation Geologic timeline Establishing the canonicity of scripture Creation of earth History of the world Views of the park and foothills Sunrise at Slide Rock State Park Sunset at Slide Rock State Park Aerial view showing park, campground, and lake.