November 19, 2009

Spurs Cross Conservation Area along Cave Creek

Located a few miles away from the Cave Creek Recreation Area is another park area managed by Maricopa County known as the Spurs Cross Conservation Area. This park protects a stretch of the lower Cave Creek and its tributary Cottonwood Creek, as well as, upland desert areas and some adjacent mountains.

While there are extensive hiking opportunities, including an 11 mile trek back to Cave Creek Recreation Area and a trail leading into the Tonto National Forest, we decided to take a beautiful little 2 mile loop trail that follows Cave Creek and leads into an some incredible old-growth Saguaro forests.

The trail was perfect for Hilina to walk, as it was mostly level and wide. The snail's pace Hilina walked today provided us with the opportunity to view dozens of cactus and desert plants up close and personal, and to soak in the beautiful desert vistas.

Cave Creek is a perennial stream in its upper reaches, with a spectacular riparian forest of sycamores and cottonwoods. In the lower stretches, it flows underground much of the year, thus there are only occassional patches of willows and cottonwoods. But, during the winter rains and summer monsoons it flows on the surface again.

There was a little pond oasis along the way which contained some rare desert fish. It was put in by the park managers at the site of an old horse ranch well to provide water for wildlife and to imitate the old waterholes that once existed along the creek for Sonoran leopard frogs and other riparian species.

In addition, we passed an old metate used by indians to grind corn and other seeds into flour.

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