Plans and Progress for Picture Canyon

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Nov 7, 6:00 in the Montoya Center, 245 Thorpe Rd

Robert Wallace, Open Space Specialist

Waterfall in basalt canyon of the Rio de Flag, Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, August 10, 2015, Flagstaff, Arizona
photo by Tom Bean

Join us on November 7 to hear Robert Wallace, the City’s Open Space specialist. He will be talking about the progress and plans for Picture Canyon, one of the jewels of the the Rio de Flag. Learn more about the wonderful places that Flagstaff has preserved all around town.

Make a Difference Day Saturday, October 19th 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

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Sponsored by the City of Flagstaff, Sierra Club, Murdoch Center, Natural Channel Design, Be Resourceful, and the Friends of the Rio de Flag

The Rio de Flag where it was rerouted and now flows through the Southside Neighborhood.

Volunteer to Make a Difference in Flagstaff’s Southside
•Rio de Flag litter clean-up • Installation of stormwater drain signs
•Drawing for prizes •Family friendly event •Lunch for volunteers!
Meet at the Murdoch Center. Parking is limited, consider carpooling, walking, busing or biking!
Please wear sun protection and sturdy shoes. Bring your refillable water bottle.
For more info, contact Maggie Twomey at mtwomey@flagstaffaz.gov (928) 213-2144

A Quick Tour of the Watersheds of Flagstaff with Ed Schenk, project manager of Flagstaff’s stormwater team

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September 5 at the Montoya Center 245 N Thorpe Rd 6pm

The recent Museum Fire has brought quite a bit of attention to Spruce Avenue Wash, a stream that few in Flagstaff had heard about or even knew about prior to the fire. Spruce Avenue Wash is one of over a dozen washes that make up 88 miles of stream channel within the Flagstaff city limits. The watersheds of these washes vary from small urban drainages to the Rio de Flag that extents all the way to the top of the peaks. This presentation will provide a quick overview of the watersheds of Flagstaff including current and future work at the city to maintain and protect the watersheds and the challenges and threats to the stream courses. Hopefully the presentation will provide perspective, allowing the audience to understand the need and power of grassroots organizations like the Friends of the Rio.

Detail of the Rio de Flag Watershed Map Bandana
Available at the meeting on September 5
Ed Schenk, Stormwater Project Manager for City of Flagstaff talks with public duringFriends of the Rio De Flag sponsored walk to Cheshire Wetlands and Pond, May 2, 2019, Flagstaff, Arizona

Ed Schenk is a project manager with the City of Flagstaff’s Stormwater team. He has lived in Flagstaff for the last 4 years with additional hydrology and geology work at the Museum of Northern Arizona and the National Park Service. Ed was a research scientist with the USGS for the decade before moving to Arizona with river restoration experience in more than 10 states. He has a Master’s from Indiana University and over 30 publications on river, wetlands, and estuary ecosystem function. Last May Ed led a walk with the Friends of the Rio de Flag to the Cheshire Wetlands to look at the restoration potential of the Cheshire Pond.

Thanks to volunteers on Saturday, August 4!

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Many thanks to the small but effective group of volunteers that helped touch up the Zuni Bowl construction site in Cheshire last Saturday. April Smith, Jenifer Lefere, Allison Lefere, and Alice Lefere all pitched in to install rock grade control in the construction bypass channel, pull weeds, rake out the spoils piles and plant native seed. These little details will help to mitigate the construction impacts and are greatly appreciated.

Other volunteers worked in Spruce Avenue Wash

A big effort was organized by Sharon Masek Lopez, with the help of Collis and others that surveyed and cleaned out trash and debris from the Spruce Ave Wash channel downstream of Rt 66 in preparation for flooding.  Those folks also get a big thank you from FoRio.

Volunteer Opportunity on Rio de Flag Saturday, August 3, 8:30 am – 11:30am

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Volunteers Requested on the Rio de Flag!

Where: Corner of Boldt and Cooper in Cheshire, just downstream of the bridge over the Rio

When: Saturday August 3, 2019 at 8:30 am until 11:30 am

What: City of Flagstaff had a contractor construct a rock structure to stop a head cut in the Rio de Flag Channel.  The contractor is done but there is a need for some site clean up, seeding, and minor rock work. Learn about erosion control and zuni bowl construction. Plus you will likely see water in the creek.

How:  Show up with Gloves, sunscreen and water. We will have tools and direction on hand.

Contact:  Allen Haden (928) 600-6649

Uncovering Ancient Landscapes of the Rio de Flag. A walk with Richard Holm, NAU Professor Emeritus

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Thursday July 11, 2019. 6:00 pm

We will meet at the SW corner of the Sams Club parking lot and walk down South Babbitt Drive to the Rio de Flag near the treatment plant. From there we will head downstream past the I-40 wetlands
and continue towards the Little America property. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to walk approximately 3 miles

Our walk will explore the ancient landscapes of Flagstaff visible from the FUTS trail along the Rio de Flag. Richard Holm will show how lava flowed down and filled small canyons. Later floods re-excavated the drainages where the trail is now located. He will demonstrate field evidence for reversal of flow.


Richard Holm is the author of the recent publication from the Arizona Geological Survey pictured above. The walk will encompass Trail 2, stops 6-8 described in the publication. This work can be downloaded for free by clicking on the link below.
http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1915
Hike with geologist Richard Holm, looking at geologic history of the Rio de Flag

New Publication about Geologic History of Flagstaff and the Rio de Flag

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Check out this new trail guide and geologic description of the Rio de Flag.

The Arizona Geological Survey has just released this online publication that explores the origin and geology of the Rio de Flag by Dr. Richard Holm, retired NAU professor of Geology and long time resident of Flagstaff.

It includes maps and guides to walking different reaches of the Rio, as well as a discussion on regional and local geology.
You can download this for free by going to the link below.

http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1915

Welcome Kelly Burke!

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Welcome Kelly Burke!

We are pleased to introduce you to Kelly Burke, Friends of the Rio de Flag’s new Watershed Group Coordinator!

As Watershed Group Coordinator, Kelly will work with diverse stakeholders and the public to help expand and formalize the Watershed Group and create a watershed plan for the Rio de Flag. The goal of the plan is to outline watershed needs and opportunities, especially as these relate to restoration. This two-year project is being funded by a Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management grant (Phase I).

Kelly brings a wealth of experience and training to the Friends of the Rio. As cofounder and Director of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, a science-based conservation organization in Flagstaff, Kelly has overseen the completion of major restoration projects, including a collaborative riparian restoration plan with the National Park Service for the Glen Canyon Reach of the Colorado River. Her background is in structural geology, hydrology and aqueous geochemistry, fluvial geomorphology, geoarcheology, and springs and riparian restoration, which she combines with experience in coordinating field projects and conservation campaigns, building partnerships, community engagement, nonprofit leadership, and fundraising.

Kelly loves people, water, and wild nature with a common concern for their health, free movement, and full lives. We are thrilled to have Kelly join the organization and excited to have her strong leadership and positive attitude guide us through watershed planning in Flagstaff and the surrounding communities.

Please welcome Kelly!

June 6 walk to the Wildcat Reach with Jack Welch

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Standing water in channel of the Rio de Flag in shallow canyon at Wildcat Reach area, north of Route 66 and east of Test Drive, in east side of Flagstaff, Arizona

Meet at the picture Canyon parking lot at 5:00 pm

Our walk on 6 June will start from the Picture Canyon Parking lot down to the Rio de Flag and then turn right on the FUTS route through the Wildcat Reach. This will be an out and back 2 mile walk.  Jack Welch, well known and beloved leader of walks in the Flagstaff area and advocate for the Rio de Flag. He will take us into an area that he has long thought should be part of the Picture Canyon Open Space. 

This is an excerpt from his July 17, 2017 Arizona Daily Sun column:

The section of the Rio de Flag east of Home Depot at the Flagstaff Mall and north of the railroad tracks has in recent years been called the Wildcat Reach. That segment of our ephemeral little river can be seen from East Route 66 down the slope from the ADOT yard.Countless years of abuse and maltreatment had that unit of the Rio looking more like an industrial dumping ground than a viable feature of a river system. Filled with trash and the coloration left from a long-abandoned paintball court, it seemed to be a permanent blemish on the body of Flagstaff.Not everybody, however, viewed the Wildcat Reach as irredeemable. Some could look past the highly damaged landscape and see an important city resource, a vital link into Picture Canyon and the possibility of a sustainable wetland.In 2008 the Flagstaff Stream Team did a survey and categorized the Wildcat Reach as one of the city locations most in need of restoration. Led by David McKee at a Make a Difference Day in 2011, a large group of citizen volunteers removed 8.2 tons of debris from the Wildcat Reach, including refrigerators, car parts and huge chunks of concrete.The unsightly paintball battlefield was completely eradicated. That space alone entailed the removal of 67 truck tires, many discarded couches and a dumpster full of invasive weeds.The Wildcat Reach of the Rio de Flag is located between East Route 66 and the Flagstaff El Paso Road. The section near East Route 66 is state trust land, then comes a segment of city owned property. The Coconino County parcel starts where the city land ends and follows a section of already constructed county trail to an open gate. From that point to the Flagstaff El Paso Road is city-owned land.Confused? Don’t be, because the county recently installed the easily identified section of trail between the two undeveloped pieces of city property and the State Trust Land still to be purchased. Once completed, the FUTS will connect East Route 66 through Wildcat Reach into the Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve.Won’t it be wonderful when the FUTS is connected all the way through the Wildcat Reach and we can traverse Picture Canyon on a completed urban trail? And why not combine the Wildcat Reach and Picture Canyon into one city/county sponsored preserve?


Join us on Thursday, June 6 to see the changes, hopes and plans for the future of the Wildcat Reach.

May 2nd – Restoration Projects with the City of Flagstaff

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with Ed Schenk, Stormwater Project Manager

A walk to look at restoration potential at Cheshire Pond

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 from 5:30pm-7:00pm

Meet at the Northwest corner of the Museum of Northern Arizona’s parking lot. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather of the day.

Wetlands near Cheshire Park, along Rio de Flag, Flagstaff, Arizona

The Cheshire Pond Dam was built in the 1950s as a fishing pond. The dam location was likely selected to take advantage of the natural gorge that drained the Cheshire meadow before the neighborhood was developed. The resulting pond has rarely been managed, most recently by the Friends of the Rio as a wetland restoration on the fringe of the pond. The pond currently fills during monsoon rains and snowmelt but can dry completely in the early summer.

Ed Schenk, with the City’s Stormwater team will provide an overview of past activities at the pond and potential restoration and monitoring options including dredging the core pond to provide perennial surface water, wetlands plantings to increase biodiversity, and citizen science potential to engage the community in local watershed protection initiatives.

Ed Schenk is a project manager with the City of Flagstaff’s Stormwater team. He has lived in Flagstaff for the last 4 years with additional hydrology and geology work at the Museum of Northern Arizona and the National Park Service. Ed was a research scientist with the USGS for the decade before moving to Arizona with river restoration experience in more than 10 states. He has a Master’s from Indiana University and over 30 publications on river, wetlands, and estuary ecosystem function.