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Bill Williams River

Summary: A smelly trudge below Alamo Lake (really, I take issue with the convention of calling these man made reservoirs 'lakes', but what can you do?).
Directions: From Wenden AZ, turn left at the restaurant advertising  hot beer and lousy service and head north on Alamo Rd. to Alamo Lake State Park.  Stop at the ranger station and pay $4 for a parking ticket (this is also a good place to ask what flow is being released from the dam), then continue onward to the parking area at the Bill Williams Overlook (complete with bathroom and interpretive sign).
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - paved all the way.
Navigation: Easy
Length: Arbitrary - turn around when you want (or when you can't take anymore)
Date Hiked: May 2001
Weather Conditions: Warm
Required Skills:
Hike Description: I'm afraid this is more of a warning than a hike write up, but here you go. From the Bill Williams Overlook, walk back out the short access road and turn right. After a short walk you will come to a large fence labeled 'US Government - No Trespassing', it's ok for hikers to pass, so walk around the fence and continue down the paved road (staying to the left at any branches) until you reach a small gaging station next to the stream that is now the Bill Williams river. The level of the stream will depend upon the flow being released from the dam. When the author was here, no water was being released. There is a small use trail just past the building, follow this trail down to the stream. The water of the stream was mucky, smelly and full of algae when the author was here, resembling nothing so much as effluent that can be found emanating from sewage treatment plants - as an environmental engineer I'm somewhat familiar with these things . Shortly thereafter you will reach a fairly large pool full of waist deep muck. You could try to wade through it, however, a better alternative is to climb the rocks on the right hand side of the stream up and around this pool. Once on the other side you can wade down stream. From here, the rest of the hike is walking on one side of the stream or the other. There are short stretches of use trail that make for easier going, though occasional wading and bush waking is also required. The turn around point is arbitrary, return when you feel like it.
Rating (1-5 stars): No stars. While the canyon itself is not unlovely, the stench and muck make for a not too pleasant experience. My wife actually came down with a nasty rash the day after wading through this mess.
Here's my theory on this area. Alamo Lake acts as a large storage pond for agricultural run off, cow excrement and boater pollution. Evaporation from the pond concentrates the pollutants which are subsequently released below the dam. Concentrated nutrients and organics in the water spark eutrification (un-natural excessive algael and plant growth) in the water below the dam which removes oxygen from the water and leads to the build up of thick brackish ooze, death of fish and the stench of decay prevalent in this area. In the past, this scum would have been removed by the occasional cleansing of a flash flood. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, this option is no longer available.
Books: Canyoneering Arizona, Tyler Williams
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The start of the hike. Typical scene below the dam.