Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Desert Waterways

Many, if not most, inland cities grew up around some kind of water feature — a lake, a river, maybe a spring or even an ancient well. And in many of those cities, especially in the north, the local water feature freezes up in winter, temporarily disrupting water-bourne transport but providing some ice-related entertainments too. Then after the winter has passed, the city might have a nice local celebration when the ice finally breaks up for the season.

Here in Southern Arizona, our local water features work differently, in that we don’t generally keep water in them.


This is the arroyo that runs through the neighbor’s property. For the Spanish-deprived, “arroyo” rhymes with “a yoyo”; extra points if you roll the ‘r’s. If you have trouble with those ‘r’s, you can just call it a “wash”, which is a common term locally. Where I come from, we’d call this a “creek” — but where I come from (Ohio) there’d be water in it too, so there’s that.

Obviously, there is occasionally water here, and you can picture it sloshing through this channel, down from the mountain toward us.

Here’s a view of the bottom.


And here’s a picture looking downstream:


The arroyo widens out and curves north and then cuts across my road on its way to Rincon Creek (also mostly dry). The road is just dirt, and of course there’s no bridge, so water running in the arroyo literally cuts the road — which you find out when you come home from work and there’s an 18-inch drop-off where there hadn’t been one that morning. Four-wheel-drive is pretty much de rigeur in my neighborhood.

I do have a couple of baby arroyos on my own property. Here’s one:


It would be great to get a picture of this with water actually running in it, but unfortunately this is what it looks like out there when there’s water in the arroyos:


Add lightning and thunder and panicky snakes, and I’ll just stay inside, thanks. You see here the confluence of my arroyitos running across (right to left) just outside the “domesticated” part of the backyard. It continues on a little ways until it cuts — again, literally — through the bottom of my path, like so:


Look at those rocks holding the line at the bottom of the tree-moat! Good rocks! In fact, the moat filled up nicely that day…


It will be better when it’s deeper. It still won’t hold the water for long, but it will slow the water down so that it sinks in rather than running off and wrecking the path, which looked like this a half-hour later:



And oh yes, where was I?

Tucson has two rivers, the Rillito and the Santa Cruz. They’re real rivers too, wide and deep. They are also empty most of the time. There are two big washes that run into the rivers, and even a couple of creeks, all ephemeral of course. In any case, Tucson — being a university town — will take any opportunity for a party, including Ice Break Day. We just define it differently: it’s the first day of the year when the temperature reaches 100°F, usually around 22 May. A local TV station runs a contest to predict the exact date and time, just like in cities that have real ice. One year, the grand prize was a trip to Alaska, to see what “ice” is!


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6 thoughts on “Desert Waterways

  1. solarbeez on said:

    That was a lot of rainfall. Looks like it drained off fast too. When I lived in the Phoenix area, we jokingly would measure rainfall in distance between drops. 🙂

    I love looking at the desert after rain. You ought to have actual grass for a few days.

  2. Just read 2 samples on my kindle ‘The Big Thirst’ and ‘When Rivers Run Dry.’ The second book starts off talking about your neck of the woods. Might be interesting, but I’m waiting for the price to go down. No way, I’m paying 10 bucks for an ebook.

    • You’re so right about the price of ebooks — there’s no excuse for them to cost more than a couple of dollars, and that’s still almost all profit.

      Check out this site Harvesting Rainwater. Brad’s local, and doing this here in town. Pricey books, but he gives all the calculations online. Here’s one:

      One Inch of rain on One Acre of land is
      Twenty-seven Thousand Gallons of water!

      Fresh water, free, right out of the sky.

      Food for thought.

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