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Name: Workman Creek Falls (FR487) Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one user vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Maintained Dirt Road)
Time: 1 - 2 hours Region: Central Arizona
Length: 3.2 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +1377 / -185 ft / + 1192 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 6000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter (non-snow conditions), early or late summer. NOTE: May be closed during some winter months Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: High Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: April, 2014
Short Description: A short 2WD dirt road (in most weather) to a beautiful waterfall. The drive along Workman Creek is awesome too.
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Workman Creek Falls; The Bobcat's Lair; Rose Creek
References / Contact Information: Tonto Forest Service; Workman Creek Ruins Photoset #1; Hike Arizona Photoset #2; Hike Arizona Photoset #3; Payson Roundup; Arizona Silver Belt;
Points of interest: Workman Creek; Workman Creek Falls; Indian Ruins; trout fishing
Special Considerations: Caution: Camping no longer permitted at some areas along the creek due to possibility of low levels of radiation from uranium mining between the 1950s and 1970s in the area. NOTE: May be closed during some winter months
How to get there: From Globe, head north on Hwy 188. Drive about 14.5 miles, then turn right onto Hwy 288. Arrive at the Workman Creek trailhead (Waypoint 001) and FR487 after about 25.5 miles. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

2016 Update: The Juniper Fire of 2016 significantly damaged this area. The summer rain run off has filled in much of the creek with sooty sludge. Many of the trees are burned. Although still open, you may want to give this area some time to recover before visiting.

NOTE: May be closed during some winter months.

Workman Creek falls and the drive up Workman Creek in the Sierra Ancha Mountains is a wonderful escape from the desert heat and typical central Arizona desert scenery. The area reminded me of the small streams in Kentucky and Michigan I used to explore when I was young. A small bubbling creek, clear water cascading over large boulders under the canopy of large shade trees. There are three recreation areas where you can park and enjoy the creek.

The drive up to the top of the falls is 2WD (in good weather), but after the bottom falls recreation area (Waypoint 005), it gets steep, narrow and scary for those afraid of heights.

This appears to be a small slice of paradise, except for the danger of low level radiation poisoning. Don't let that dissuade you though. This is an awesome spot.

You can also fish along Workman Creek. The Tonto National Forest stock the creek twice a year (in early summer) with trout. Click here for information on fishing.

General Information and History

From the 1950s to the 1970s, uranium was collected from dozens of mines in the Workman Creek area. The area contains naturally occurring uranium and radium-266.

Caution: DO NOT enter any of the mines in the area. Many of these mines have radiation levels that would be enough to recommend that you "evacuate" the area. The Forest Service boarded up many of these mines, but people have broken through the boards and have ignored the warning signs. Not too smart.

The levels outside the mine can be above "normal", but are not dangerous for short periods (not camping for extended times). The Forest Service does not recommend eating any fish caught in the Workman Creek area.

A few years ago the Tonto Forest Service was asking for public comment and suggestions on a large cleanup of the area. They came up with a $1.5 million dollar plan, but I do not believe it was ever funded. It's your call on whether you want to visit the site or not. I did not see any mutated plants or three eyed creatures during my visit and plan to go back again.

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The Trails

NOTE: May be closed during some winter months.

From Highway 228, head east on FR487 at Waypoint 001. There are nice big signs pointing you in the correct direction. You can stop to read the sign. It tells you there's no camping due to possible long term radiation exposure.

Keep heading east in a slow climb up the mountain. Workman Creek will be on your right. After 0.75 miles, you will pass the Elk's Youth Camp on your left (Waypoint 002). Keep straight. There are a few more old homes, etc. that are private property here, please respect them and keep heading east along the dirt road.

After a little more than a mile, you will pass the first recreation area on your right (Waypoint 003). Stop and enjoy the area or keep going. At about 1.9 miles, you will come to the second recreation area (Waypoint 004). Again, you can park to enjoy the creek or proceed forward to the falls.

At 2.5 miles, you will come to the Workman Creek Falls Recreation Area on your right (Waypoint 005). This isn't as developed or as large as the other two recreation areas. I believe it's used as a parking area for those who want to hike to the bottom of the falls, which I have never done (but really want to).

From here to the top of the falls, the road gets steeper and much narrower. Much of this is only one lane wide and there are a few "bridges" that you will need to cross that may make those afraid of heights nervous. I was the first time I went. The second time, I didn't mind it too much.

Proceed up to the top of the falls at Waypoint 006. There are a few pull out areas near the falls that you can park at. A big group won't do well here though. I have not driven the road further up than the falls and I don't know how far it goes or what's up there.

Be very careful when you're next to the top of the falls. It's a LONG way down. One of the people in our group dropped his radio and it tumbled down the embankment and came to rest only a few feet from the water going off the drop. He decided to make an attempt to get his radio back, though one slip and he would go off the edge and die. The "radio rescue" went well (no one died), though we did use a rope and winch cable as a precaution. Click here for the video.

When you're done, turn around and go back the way you came in.

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

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