Blue Ridge Reservoir

August 19-22, 2015

We finally got a chance to spend a few days canoeing and camping at Blue Ridge Reservoir, with a little help from our friends David and Rogil. The reservoir is a big attraction in the summer, and on prior attempts we were put off by the long line of cars at the boat launch. But in mid-week there was less traffic and less competition for the handful of good campsites that are still accessible when the reservoir has been drawn down to 50% of capacity. We had a wonderful time swimming in the cool jade green water, relaxing on the shore, hiking into the high country above the reservoir, and marvelling at the strange history of the redistribution of water in Arizona.

An unbelievably complex arrangement allows water from the Black River to be pumped up 700 feet to the rim of the Black Canyon and then gravity-fed 6-1/2 miles into Willow Creek. The water is 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 a state with such limited supplies of potable water, how is that agribusiness and mining make all the decisions about the where and how that water is distributed? Just sayin'.