Most visitors come to Phoenix for the sun. Although the sun isn’t shining right now, visitors shouldn’t be disappointed. This week’s stormy weather gives them the opportunity to see a very different face of the Valley.
One thing few visitors or residents get to see is water flowing in rivers. Okay, this is not a unique site elsewhere in the country or even the world. Around here however…the joke is “you know you’re in Arizona because the rivers are filled rocks instead of water!” The substantial amount of rain we’ve received, both in the Phoenix metro area and in the northern parts of the state has many waterways full or overflowing. The Agua Fria and Hassayampa Rivers are both running high according to the National Weather Service. The Salt River Project (SRP) is reporting that the Verde River system, including the Salt River in near capacity as well.
The Agua Fria River is found north of the Valley. It feeds Lake Pleasant and the Gila River. The Gila River is a tributary of the Colorado River that flows through the Gila River Indian Reservation just outside the Phoenix metro.
The Hassayampa River primarily feeds the high Sonoran desert from underground. There isn’t much to see along its course until its crystal clear water emerges from the rocky soil near Wickenburg (north of Phoenix). According to the Nature Conservancy, the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenberg is home to some of the Sonoran Deserts most spectacular wildlife included a rare cottonwood-willow forest. Cottonwood-willow forests are among the most threatened type of forest in North America.
Of the area rivers, the Salt River probably offers the best show for visitors to Phoenix. The Verde River is Arizona’s only wild river. It flows through the Coconino National Forest and joins the Salt River feeding into Tempe Town Lake. As of Friday noon, Tempe Town Lake was expected to be flowing at 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) which is about 15 percent of capacity. Tempe Town Lake itself is closed. Visitors interested in viewing the Salt River may do so from the Tempe Center for the Arts, located at 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. The Salt will continue offering exceptional viewing throughout the weekend as the weather improves.
It’s not every visitor to the Valley of the Sun that gets to experience Phoenix this way. In fact, very few do. So even if your trip didn’t turn out as you planned, you will have a unique tale to share when you get home!