Sunday, December 23, 2012
Sabino Creek Sabino Canyon
On December 6th we traveled to Sabino Canyon and there was little evidence of water with the exception of a few stagnant pools here and there. No running water was found. After a mid month rain and snow in the Santa Catalina Mountains we returned on the 17th and the stream had regained it's vigor and was once again the beautiful bringer of life to the riparian area along it's banks.
Just above the dam you can see the effects of the downward flow of the water carrying sediment over the years since the dam was built and depositing it behind the dam until it was completely full. It is my understanding that this was a popular swimming hole many years ago but it is barely a few inches deep today.
Rain and snow melt moving down from the Santa Catalina's provides the necessary moisture for a variety of plants along the creek banks including cottonwoods, willows, elderberries and ashes as well as a variety of native shrubs and grasses. You can read about the ecology of this important and unique environment at: http://www.tucsonaudubon.org/~tucsonau/images/stories/IBA/Sabino%20Riparian%20Habitat%20Guide%20091306.pdf
According to the Tucson Audubon Society less than 5% of the states riparian areas have survived due to a number of factors that include over development and groundwater pumping. Sabino Canyon is home to a variety of birds an animals including the recently observed Rufous-backed Robin and three Mountain Lions. I have to admit that for a long time I avoided coming to Sabino because of it's high visitation rate but I have been here three times in the last month and the beauty of this place far out weighs any reservations I might have had.
The road going into the canyon is not open to automobiles which really helps to keep a sense of serenity. There is a tram that runs from the base to the end of the road and back and I think lots of visitors are content to see the canyon in this fashion which in a way takes pressure off the trails. Allot of people who visit regularly walk or run up and down the road which crisscrosses the creek over a series of stone bridges that were built many years ago.
I plan on heading back to the canyon on December 26th and going to the top on the tram and then spend a great deal of time walking the 3.8 miles back to the visitor center. In the photo above it is easy to see the path of the creek often described as a ribbon snaking it's way through the desert. You can see how quickly the vegetation changes as you move away from the stream showcasing just how small and fragile a riparian habitat is. I'll let you know how my trip is on the 26th. Until then have a happy holiday and please support one of the many fine environmental organizations listed on this blog.