Monday, February 16, 2015

The Falls Along Fish Creek

February 9, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I would guess the water was falling between 700-900 feet.
The highest fall was absolutely spectacular.
When there is rain in our area the desert changes dramatically, and this week’s column is about some spectacular scenery along the old Apache Trail during the recent rains.

Some residents claim they had 3/4 – 1.5 inches of precipitation between the night of Thursday, January 29, and Saturday morning, January 31, 2015. It rained steady all day Friday and into the night. It was this steady rainfall that convinced us to drive up to Fish Canyon and check out the waterfalls.

We were also aware of a couple of things that might happen with this much moisture. One thing was loose rocks tumbling down on the roadway making it somewhat hazardous for driving. Secondly, I was concerned about Tortilla Creek near Tortilla Flat. Last year Tortilla Creek ran bank to bank and you couldn’t cross it for a couple of days.

When Sharon, my wife, said, “Lets go see the falls along Fish Creek Hill,” I thought she was joking. I thought about it and said the potential for problems was very real on such an adventure. She reminded me, “We would have never done anything if that were the case.”

I prepared our truck for a trip up the Apache Trail. We departed Apache Junction at 3:30 p.m. The rain never ceased during our four- hour trip to Fish Creek. This turned out to be quite an adventure for a seventy-six year-old couple.

My only real concern was Tortilla Creek. If the creek flooded we would be stuck on the other side. If this happened there were a couple alternatives. First, we could drive through to SR 188 and on to Globe if Three Mile Canyon was not flooding. We also could rent a room at Apache Lake if they had any available. We were also prepared to camp. We had plenty of bedding, a gas stove, a light, and food. We have never left home without being prepared for any emergency.

As we crossed Tortilla Creek, some seventeen miles from Apache Junction, I suggested we turn around and go back. It had rained constantly on us since we left the house. Sharon insisted we go on to Fish Creek. I warned her that Tortilla Creek could easily run bank to bank and nobody would be able to cross it. Sharon insisted she wanted to see the falls. 

From Tortilla Creek down to the Fish Creek Bridge was another eight miles or so. My wife has been through a lot in the last four months and I wasn’t going to say no. She said she wanted to see the falls flowing for all the “pink” ribbons out there.

As we started down the grade on SR88 from Inspiration Point some large rocks had fallen down on to the road. I stopped once and removed a very large one that I couldn’t straddle with the truck. As we slowly drove around this sharp bend the falls came into view.

There were three large falls we saw clearly, however there are several smaller ones. I would guess the water was falling between 700-900 feet. The highest fall of the three was absolutely spectacular. At this particular point in time I would compare these falls with some of the high falls in California or Colorado. We have seen these falls flow before but nothing like on Friday evening, January 30, 2015. We have traveled this road for more than fifty years and have never witness such a sight.

We had Fish Creek to ourselves. We saw one vehicle after the end of the pavement some six miles east of Tortilla Flat and that was about 4 p.m.

Sharon was thrilled with the spectacular waterfalls and I was worried about getting back across Tortilla Creek. She wasn’t too anxious to leave such beauty. This spectacular beauty is seldom witnessed in our arid state. I warned Sharon several times we had to return and finally she relented. About 5:15 p.m. we began our return trip back to Apache Junction. After dinner we returned home to view our photos and video.

My advice is don’t do this trip under the conditions we did, but on the other hand almost everything in life comes at a risk. Sharon’s desire to see the falls outweighed my caution and concern for the conditions. We have driven up to Fish Creek many times over the years when it has rained and there were no falls of this magnitude.

We fulfilled an adventure of a lifetime and didn’t have to leave the Apache Trail to do it.