Dogies In The Dells

January 18, 2019

By Scott McFeely

This was the Sedona Westerners’ view of Watson Lake while having lunch beside this quiet cove. The reflections of the Granite Dells’ rock formations and the trees can be seen in the water. Birds are abundant on the lake. Photo by Alan Gore

On a very cool morning in November, a hardy group of the Sedona Westerners’ Dogie hikers from Sedona gathered in Cottonwood for the drive to Prescott, and the day’s hiking adventure.  Our destination was the Granite Dells around Watson Lake.  I led the hike this day, having scouted the route a few days earlier.  We were fortunate to have a retired geologist along, Ernie Pratt, to provide us with clues as to the origin of these unique granite rock formations.

Following our arrival at Watson Lake Park, we donned our packs, grabbed our hiking poles, and marched down the boat ramp to the North Shore trailhead.  Our path today would lead us clockwise around the north shore of the lake, along the drainage of Granite Creek, past Watson Dam and Flume and a portion of the Over the Hill Trail, before retracing our steps back.

After 10 minutes or so, we stopped on a granite bench with spectacular views of the lake and the granite rock formations in the morning light.  We also enjoyed water birds skitting across the smooth water surface and the sight of several herons looking for their breakfast.  As we gathered around, Ernie gave us a talk explaining the origin of these unusual rock formations.  They are from the Precambrian era and the granite has been dated at 1.4 billion years old.  The pluton which led to the formation was intruded at a depth of about 1 to 2 miles.  (A pluton is a deep-seated intrusion of igneous rock, a body that made its way into pre-existing rocks in a melted form (magma) several miles underground in the Earth's crust and then solidified.)  The covering rocks have since been eroded away.  Weathering along joints has produced the rounded boulders and other unusual rock formations that characterize the Granite Dells today.

As we continued on, we made our way up a granite knob, relying on the traction of our boots to get us up the steep slope.  The white painted trail markers on the stone provided the only visual clue as to direction.  After a half a mile or so, we then began a steep descent down into a gulley.  Once in the gulley, we took a loop trail off to the north which eventually dropped us down beside Granite Creek.  We followed this gentle portion of the trail until we were traversing the side of the canyon past some old water works.  We then scrambled back down to creek level and made our way across the creek on a metal mesh plank.  A few hundred feet farther on, we were looking at Watson Dam and the Flume.  The water pouring from the Flume feeds Granite Creek, which we had been following upstream.  After a few photo opportunities at the base of the dam, we retraced our steps back to the bridge and continued downstream, on the opposite side of the stream.  After a few hundred yards walking the trail through high reeds, we met our next test – a steep climb up a rock wall.

We crested the wall at about noon and I was delighted to find a great spot for a snack break.  Each of us chose a spot to sit on the rock, removed our packs, and enjoyed a break in the sunshine.  With everyone refreshed, we moved on to the last inbound leg of our hike, a mile on the Over the Hill trail and a branch trail that took us down to a beautiful cove.  This portion of the route required quite a bit of up and down, so we welcomed the opportunity sit and enjoy lunch beside the lake. After a half-hour lunch break, we donned our gear, said goodbye to this beautiful cove and began the journey back over the granite rocks to our vehicles.  In retrospect, I had wondered how many hikers would participate in this hike, given the long drive time.  It turned out to be a fairly large group.  Happily, many of the hikers approached me afterwards to express how much they enjoyed this unusual hike.

If you are interested in joining the hiking club, please visit the Sedona Westerners’ website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 14, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Written by Scott McFeely.

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