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Creek Walks Inspire

Desert Leaf


Photo by Julius Schlosburg A hundred years ago, waters flowed in creeks and rivers running through Tucson. Today, not so much.

River Run Network (RRN), a program of Watershed Management Group (WMG), is a group of people and organizations working collaboratively to restore water flow to the Santa Cruz River and its tributaries. To show and tell people what the springs, creeks, and rivers of the Tucson Basin used to be like and what they could be like again, the network offers a series of creek walks.

The most recent creek walk, in May, explored Atterbury Wash through Lincoln Park. An earlier series of creek walks began at the upper end of the tributary flow, near a wetland lake in the Upper Tanque Verde streamshed. Other walks in that series took participants downstream to tree-lined settings along the Rillito River, into the riparian area of Ciénega Creek, along the Santa Cruz River, and onto the Cañada del Oro floodplain on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

“These walks are educational in nature, as well as fun in exploring the potential of the creeks that connect people with the beauty around them— beauty we could potentially restore,” said Catlow Shipek, Watershed Management’s policy and technical director, during an August 2018 creek walk.

“Our ultimate vision is to restore flow in the upstream tributaries and ultimately in the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano riverbeds. These walks are educational in nature, as well as fun in exploring the potential of the creeks that connect people with the beauty around them — beauty we could potentially restore,” said Catlow Shipek, Watershed Management’s policy and technical director, during an August 2018 creek walk.

“Our ultimate vision is to restore flow in the upstream tributaries and ultimately in the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano riverbeds. Reviving desert waterways requires hard science to understand the dynamics at work and [to] chart a course for increase surface flows,” added Shipek. “We’ve created a flow budget analyzing recharge compared to groundwater demands, and the Upper Tanque Verde has been in balance most years, although the aquifer has limited storage capacity because of underlying bedrock and can be quickly depleted by groundwater pumping in drier years, especially during the dry season of March to July.”

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