I refuse to use the new name! We got the idea to return there a few weeks ago when I saw online that the
reservoir was 90% full.
By the time we were packed up and ready to go, it was
probably in the 80s, but that was still higher than I'd ever seen it.
David and Rogil had a few days
off, having just returned from their annual canyoneering trip in Utah, so we arranged to meet them at Scoops in Payson on Sunday morning.
The reservoir is testament to the complex web of arrangements that control the distribution of water in Arizona. Water from the Black River in northern Arizona is pumped up 700 feet to the rim of
the Black Canyon, gravity-fed 6½ miles into Willow Creek and then transported 21 miles to Eagle Creek, where it flows downstream 30 miles to a pumping station that supplies water to the mines in
Morenci. In exchange for the water taken from the Black River, the Phelps Dodge Corporation built the dam on the East Clear Creek, which pumps water through a 4400-foot-long tunnel 435 feet up and
over the Mogollon Rim and then delivers it 11 miles downhill to the East Verde River from whence it is distributed to the Salt River Project to supply Phoenix and the many irrigation canals that
surround it. In 2005, the Salt River Project acquired the reservoir from Phelps Dodge as part of the Gila River Indian Water Rights Settlement, and reached
an agreement with the Town of Payson to supply 3000 acre-feet of water.
Dennis and I headed north Saturday afternoon, intending to camp near Washington
Park on the East Verde River, where we had camped two years ago. But the road
to Washington Park is all torn up to make way for a 15-mile-long pipeline that will carry water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir to Payson, and McMansions are sprouting on either side of the road.
I am always puzzled to
see so much new
development on public land, but as Rogil suggested, "BLM" stands for
"beef, lumber and mining". I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that all the nice camping spots along East Verde Creek are now posted with "no camping" signs. We ended up nosing
onto a 4WD side road, which
was nice enough, but still littered with spent shells, beer cans and toilet paper. We went for a sunset walk along a two-rut track that led to the top of the rise where there were
great views of the Mogollon Rim towering above us, and also of a wildfire below the lip of the Rim that ignited earlier that day.
During a peaceful morning paddle on the reservoir, we flushed a family of mergansers.