Sabino Creek — flushed with snowmelt from high in the Catalina Mountains — has been gushing down Sabino Canyon in recent days and providing a wet spectacle for canyon visitors.
“Our sensor, about 20 feet upstream from Sabino Dam, is showing a flow of 57 cubic feet per second,” said Emmet McGuire, field office chief for the Arizona Water Science Center. The center is part of the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It’s a pretty fair flow,” said McGuire, who wasn’t immediately able to provide average or high flow rates for the stream. “We’ve got some snowmelt going on up in the headwaters, and I think that’s what is providing that flow.”
He added that the flow has increased in recent days.
“I suspect that’s because we’ve had higher temperatures in the last couple of days,” increasing snowmelt, McGuire said.
GOODBYE TO DRY
The 57-cubic-feet-per-second flow is a far wet cry from some previous seasons along Sabino Creek.
In recent years, the creek has dried up several times before being replenished by snowmelt or monsoon rains.
For example, as McGuire has noted, a gauge on Sabino Creek recorded no stream flow in a continuous 73-day period from Oct. 4 through Dec. 15 in 2012. And in January of 2013, the flow dropped to a meager 2.99 cubic feet per second.
Those dry days seemed long ago this week as visitors made the short hike to the creek and Sabino Dam site to marvel at the flow and record it with cellphone cameras.
In several previous years, especially those with scant snow in the mountains, the creek has dwindled rapidly in the absence of rain and has sometimes been reduced to a linear sandpile by summer.
McGuire was guardedly optimistic about the creek in the coming months.
“If there’s enough snowmelt, and enough that gets recharged in the higher elevations, we could see a pretty fair flow for an extended time this year,” he said.