The Friends of the Rio de Flag is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to protect, restore, clean up and improve the Rio de Flag and its tributaries to maximize their beauty, educational, recreational, and natural resource values, including the riparian habitats they provide.

Where is the Rio de Flag anyway? Click here to see a 3D image of the Rio watershed.

Museum Fire Flood Mitigation talk

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With John Carr and Christopher Tressler

Engineers with Coconino County Community Development

February 6 at 6:30 pm

At the Montoya Center

235 N Thorpe Rd

We have all seen the threat of flooding from the fire last summer and many of us helped place sandbags to prevent damage from possible flooding that occurs post-fire. What is the county’s role in flood mitigation and what are the plans going forward? John Carr and Christopher Tressler, engineers for Coconino County will give a short presentation and be able to answer questions about how the county is proceeding with flood mitigation work. Join us on February 6 at the Montoya Center to learn more.

Celebrate World Wetlands Day With Us

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Sunday Feb 2, 2020  at 2pm

I-40 Wetlands along the Rio de Flag

I-40 Wetlands in January 2020. Photo by Tom Bean

Meet at the southwest corner of Sam’s Club parking lot at 2 pm and be prepared for icy and muddy conditions.  Local habitat professionals are leading the walk to answer your questions about the site.   Note that it is also groundhog day, so keep your eyes open for the elusive (and probably unwilling to look for shadows in February) prairie dog.

Help us celebrate the biodiversity of wetlands in Flagstaff along the Rio de Flag.   The Rio supports several named wetlands, including the Cheshire Wetlands, Picture Canyon areas, and the I-40 Wetlands.  These important habitats are great for watching wildlife and boast some of the best birding around Flagstaff.  Join us for a walk on February 2 to the I-40 Wetlands to explore the habitat in winter

Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. The Convention on Wetlands, the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971with 171 member states, including the United States.   For more information on the Ramsar Convention check out the website

This year the theme for World Wetlands Day is Wetland Biodiversity Matters.  Biodiversity rates are in steep decline worldwide, and wetland species are the most at risk.  In less than 50 years, between 1097 and 2014 populations of fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles have declined by 60 %.  This is especially alarming in Arizona where less than 10% of original riparian habitats remain.

Come and explore one of those critical habitats with us on 2/2/2020 at 2pm, and be prepared for Flagstaff’s variable weather in Feburary – muddy and icy conditions are probable.  Sturdy shoes, warm clothes and hiking poles are not out of line!

Annual Potluck and Meeting

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Thursday January 2, 6:00-7:30 pm

Montoya Center, 245 Thorpe Rd

Frances Short Pond with San Francisco Peaks, along the Rio de Flag, Nov. 5, 2015, Flagstaff

We wish you all a joyous New Year. In winter with short days and long nights, when snow covers the high country, it may appear that all the watershed is at rest. It is a good time to to reflect on the hard work we have done to protect and restore the Rio, and to voice our concerns and hopes for the future of Flagstaff’s watershed.
Please join us on Thursday, January 2nd at the Montoya Center at 6:00-7:30 for our annual potluck! Meet members of the Board (if you haven’t already) and learn about our 2019 work on the Army Corps project and the Watershed Plan.  
Bring a friend and your favorite dish to share in this year’s feast

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.

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.
Hike with geologist Richard Holm, looking at geologic history of the Rio de Flag

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.

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