June 10, 2012

East Clear Creek, Mogollon Rim, AZ

We leave Arizona on Tuesday for summer up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but before we do, I wanted to pass along some photos of our camping trip out at East Clear Creek near the edge of the Mogollon Rim at 7,400 feet.

Due to the porous nature of the rocks in this region, surface water is rare. East Clear Creek offers one of the few, non-muddy, opportunities to enjoy the lush riparian zone on top of the rim. This creek heads across the rim and then down to the north through Winslow before meeting up with the Little Colorado River, which eventually joins the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

The site is about 70 miles from Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest. Upon arrival, we set up camp along the banks of the creek under the shade of majestic Ponderosa pines.

The substrate is Coconino Sandstone, which are the remains of an ancient desert that once covered this region with sand dunes hundreds of feet high. The cross-bedding is evident in the image below. Each change of angle represents a new sand dune that formed on top of the older ones that lithified when water drained through the sand and cemented the sand particles together.

Hilina absolutely loved playing in the creek, trying to catch crawdads and little fish fry, and otherwise having a grand time.

A few miles further south came the edge of the Mogollon Rim. The edge of the rim sits 2,000 feet above the Tonto Basin below. This escarpment runs over 200 miles from west of Williams all the way to New Mexico.   In the image above, you can see the effects of a fire that ran up this canyon.

From here, you can look across the Tonto Basin to the Mazatzal Mountains and out to the Sonoran Desert beyond. The town of Payson is visible in places. We used to live at the base of the Mogollon Rim in Young, AZ some years back and to get to town for groceries always had to ascent and then descend the rim (2,000 feet each way) to get to Payson. It was a 20 mile dirt road off of Highway 260 and then 30 more miles on pavement to Payson.

On the way back, we traveled past Mormon Lake. This odd geologic feature looks like a large volcanic caldera filled with a very shallow muddy lake. The lake expands and contracts through the year, but is rarely more than a few feet thick. I've researched it before and have never found any evidence that it is volcanic in origin (other than the lava rocks on the surface). The San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff are visible in the distance about 30 miles to the north. I actually have some students of mine who live along the lakeshore in a small private enclave surrounded by national forest land.

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