Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The Difference a Day Makes

Sabino Creek is normally a rather placid little stream. Looking at it on a normal day, you wouldn't think of it forming the massive gash in the Santa Catalina mountains called Sabino Canyon.  While here in Arizona we walk most days on the trails in the canyon.
 In the lower portion of the creek that can be reached via the Bear Canyon trail the water flows gently over the dam that forms tiny Sabino Lake. Often the dam edge is so shallow that hikers walk on it. 
 Most of the rocks in the stream bed below are dry and exposed.
In spots the water collects in peaceful pools and
 bubbles float aimlessly.
There are two bridges over the creek in this area. One is now falling into dis-repair and can only be crossed on foot. 

The other is on the main Bear Canyon road and allows access for hikers and vehicles to continue on to the mouth of Bear Canyon and the Seven Falls area. On most days you can walk across either of the bridges without getting your feet wet.  But put two to three inches of rain miles away up on Mount Lemon and within hours you see a startling and dangerous change. The creek rises and both bridges go underwater quickly.

The dam explodes with massive amounts of water that doubles the width of the creek in a matter of hours.

Vehicle traffic is quickly stopped and rangers warm hikers not to try and cross the bridges on foot.

Of course there are always idiots around and although the water on the bridges looks shallow, the speed of the current is deceptive. A rock surface that seems perfectly manageable when dry becomes slippery when wet.  A simple slip can put you down or even pitch you off the bridge and into the stream proper. There were two rescues just last week after the most recent rain up in the mountains. Speaking of mountains, this Gneiss rock and many of its fellows have actually been washed down the valley from high above in the days when the canyon was truly being formed. It's hard to believe that water has that kind of force, but there are even larger ones around.








No comments: