Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake Bridge

I’ve liked every place we’ve gone on our day trips but some are a little more special than others (to me) and this is one of them. I love this area. This bridge was completed in 1992. Prior to this, people could drive over the dam itself. I had not been here since the mid-1980s and it was even more impressive than I remembered…although we were able to drive over the dam when I was first there and it was far more “historic-looking.”

The dam was completed in 1911 after several years of work and mishaps. Former President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the dam which had the primary purpose of providing water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley. In 1989, renovations and reconstruction began until completion in 1996. As a result of the reconstruction, the dam has a completely altered appearance from when it was originally listed as a National Historic Landmark. The original rubble-masonry dam was completely encased in concrete, and the structural height was extended from 280 feet to 357 feet. Since the dam no longer had the integrity of the design, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association that it had when it was originally listed, the National Historic Landmark designation was withdrawn on March 10, 1999.

This majestic guy was perched on the outcropping in the far right of the above photo, overlooking the dam:

Here is a public domain photo of the original dam:

The following photo shows an aerial view (by the Bureau of Reclamation). Wish I could have gotten this shot!

State Route 188 had to be reconfigured when the new bridge was built.

In the aerial view of the dam, you can see a winding road on the lower right side. That is the old Apache Trail. It starts out paved at the dam but soon changes to an unpaved, winding road with hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs. It is apparently really beautiful but since it lasts for about 40 miles, we opted not to go. Plenty of people do take it, though, or parts of it, and the canyon floors are littered with cars that went over.

It runs along the glittering Salt River to Apache Junction.

There is a part of it that is paved out of Apache Junction to beyond Tortilla Flat, a remaining stagecoach stop. That is going on our list of future “to-dos.” The unpaved, winding part? Not so sure I’ll ever see that. That’s okay, I watched a YouTube video of it.

We also stopped at Tonto National Monument, right along the lake: well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture 850 years ago. It’s a half-mile hike up to the dwellings with a 350 foot ascension. There’s very little shade so even though the temperatures were in the upper 70s, it was pretty hot. The unique thing about these dwellings is that you can actually go inside them. There is a ranger stationed there asking you to not touch the walls but it’s pretty cool to actually be able to go inside.

This is what the Salado people saw looking out from their home:

A handprint from 850 years ago

Another photo that is not mine of the cliff dwellings (Wikipedia):

We didn’t see many birds but it was awesome, nevertheless.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a short video of the dam’s history if you’re interested:

 

 

 

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Fall in Page Springs

Oak Creek

We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.

For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.

Rainbow Trout

Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.

White-crowned Sparrows, male and female

Red-winged Blackbirds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal, female

Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.

This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.

We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…

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Woods Canyon Lake

White-breasted Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Tony and I were back on the beautiful Mogollon Rim one day last week, specifically at Woods Canyon Lake. We met our good buddy, Marika, there. She has been volunteer camp hosting at an Arizona State Park close to Show Low for the last 2 months and Woods Canyon was a half-way point between there and Phoenix.

Marika is an experienced birder and it’s largely because of her that I got 3 lifers this day!

Mountain Chickadee (lifer)

Red-breasted Nuthatch (lifer)

And a very bad shot:

Hermit Thrush (lifer)

The chipmunks and squirrels were decimating the pine cones. Delicious!

These guys were lifers when we were there in June:

Brown Creeper

Steller’s Jay

The last time we were at Woods Canyon, I got 3 lifers so that is a total of 6 lifers I have gotten there! Good birding.

Since it’s the month of Halloween, here’s the creepiest thing spotted that day:

Western Tent Caterpillars

The Rim Road leading to the lake has many exceptional vista points and a trail that goes right along the edge of the Rim. We stopped there on the way out and took in the always breath-taking views.

SR 260

Rock Squirrel, appreciating the view from the edge of the Rim

Also in the spirit of Halloween, the bizarrest thing spotted that day, just laying on a rock close to the edge…fun to speculate all the dark reasons why that might have been laying there…Boo!

Rockin’ the Rim:

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Jinxed on the Mountain

You can see the forest reflected in the squirrel’s eye.

Arizona Gray Squirrels (endemic to eastern AZ and northern Mexico)

Last Thursday, September 13, we headed back up to Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim. Last time we went, which happened to be on July 13, it rained a lot and Tony fell into a creek, necessitating a trip to the Payson ER. This was going to be a do-over. As we drove north, our new-to-us SUV’s a/c quit functioning and, as we were still in low elevations, it was pretty uncomfortable. We were coming up on the Mt. Ord turnoff and decided to just go there instead. Last time we were there, we took our car and I had vowed to not go up the winding, rutted 6 mile road again until we had a SUV. No problem, right?

Well, we went a little over 4 miles up and an ominous warning appeared on the dash, “Transmission Failure. Service Now.” That kinda spooked us since it would be really bad to break down up there with no cell service and no easy access for a tow. So we stopped and walked around for a while. When we started the SUV again, the warning light wasn’t on anymore so we headed back down to an area referred to as the “saddle” with a corral and a cistern with running water where there should have been a lot of birds.

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker

Bridled Titmouse

We met this guy, coming for a drink:

There are several up there. There were also many butterflies! A few held still long enough for photos.

Arizona Sister

Mournful Duskywing

Bauer’s Giant-Skipper

I also got a lifer bird, called a Hutton’s Vireo, but the photo is pretty bad. After spending a couple hours roaming around the saddle, we decided we should head back home since we were still concerned about the a/c and transmission.

Much of the forest road is not this nice.

As we were leaving, a man in a pickup truck stopped and came and talked to us. He was very friendly and chatty. Turns out, he has lived on Mt. Ord since 1992 (as there is private property in amongst the forest land) and he regaled us with colorful mountain tales of bears, lions, rattlesnakes, and other critters. We learned that hunting is legal up there and it is now hunting season (I had guessed that from seeing a couple guys in camouflage with bows). We learned there are plenty of black bears, that mountain lion meat is tasty, that there is all sorts of interesting history on the mountain, involving Spaniards and miners and more.

Okay, he didn’t quite look like that (I wish) and it’s still a little hot to dress that way but you get the idea. He had removed the “F” from the back of his Ford pickup so that it read ORD. Meeting him made me realize, again, that as much as we like going to all these places and hiking around and thinking of ourselves as outdoorsy nature buffs, there’s city folk and there’s country folk, and they’re not the same.

Turkey Vultures

Next best surprise of the day was that our a/c worked just fine and the transmission light never came on again. Nevertheless, the SUV (not Ford-tough) is going in for a checkup Monday and we are not going to attempt any more trips on the 13th of any month, any day.

 

Montezuma Well

Variegated Fritillary

Montezuma Well is part of Montezuma Castle National Monument in Rimrock, AZ (even though it’s in a location several miles away). It is a natural limestone sinkhole that has been home to many ancient cultures, spanning more than 1,000 years, including the Sinagua, Hohokam, and Salado peoples. By 1425, the people had migrated to other areas but the Well is still a sacred place for the Hopi, Zuni, Yavapai, Western Apache, and other Native American cultures.

The Well itself is 386 feet in diameter and holds over 15 million gallons of water. It is fed by Beaver Creek through a long, narrow cave (called the swallet) to reapppear on the other side at the outlet. The water contains arsenic and high quantities of carbon dioxide so fish cannot live in it but five endemic species have evolved here that exist nowhere else on the planet: amphipods, predatory leeches (not blood-suckers), water scorpions, spring snails, and a unique, single-celled diatom.

The people of the Sinagua culture began building the dwellings in the cliffs around the Well seen here.

These 125 steps, above, lead to the swallet. We went, instead, to the outlet which was only 45 steps down.

The largest sycamore tree in Arizona is down at the outlet.

Creekside

Along the creek at the outlet

I’m pleased that I finally broke my losing streak of ZERO lifers lately by finding one down by the outlet.

Summer Tanager, male (lifer)

We also saw the female but she was shyer and much less colorful. We also spotted a few other birds that we don’t see too often.

Bridled Titmouse

Brewer’s Sparrow

Western Wood-Pewee

There are ruins of other cultures scattered over the whole area.

Sinagua Dwelling

The ranger told us that we could probably see a Great Horned Owl if we went over to the picnic area. After much searching through the big cottonwoods and sycamores, Tony spotted him!

Okay, not really, but it had us fooled for a minute. We never did find the real owl.

Here is a short, minute-and-a-half video that the National Park Service did about the Well. This really is a strange and fascinating place.