Coronado NF
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  • Sabino Dam

    Dam Bridge

    Sabino Creek

    You are standing before the Dam Bridge looking East. The bridge was built during the Great Depression in the 1930s by the Emergency Relief Administration. As you walk out onto the bridge, enjoy the views up and down the creek. Although animals are not highly visible, the area supports abundant wildlife. Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians  and arthropods have adapted to the desert environment. You can now observe the “canyon” effect with rather steep hillsides on each side of the creek.

    The fish in the photos are taken looking South from the Bridge (to the right) The single fish is a Gila Chub. It is native to Arizona. The males grow to about 6 inches, whereas the females can reach close to 10 inches in length. The tail fin is forked. A number of years ago the Forest Service introduced a sunfish into Sabino Creek for sportfishing. These fish began to eat the native Gila Chub, but the sunfish were impossible to eradicate.  In 2003, the Aspen Fire occurred on Mount Lemmon. It was thought that, once the summer monsoon rains came, the ash from the fire would run down into Sabino Creek, suffocating all living animal species in the creek including the sunfish. AZ Game and Fish removed about 1000 of the Gila Chub and stored them at various sites. Sure enough, when the rains came the creek filled with ash and the sunfish did not survive. Once the creek cleared, the Gila Chub were re-introduced to the creek and have done quite well.

    The fish in the other photo are Gila Topminnows. They were recently introduced. The black one is a male. Note that the tail fins are fan-shaped, making them easy to distinguish from the Gila Chub. They do not grow anywhere near as large. Unlike the Chub that lay eggs, the Topminnows have live births.

    Sabino Creek is home to many other critters. The photo shows a pair of the large Sonoran Desert Toads mating in the same area that the fish were photographed. The photo was taken in mid-June.

    As the next photo shows, the bridge can be difficult or impossible to get across after monsoon rains. Always be alert for flash flood warnings.

    This photo shows Sabino Creek looking North from the Dam Bridge.

    Your next destination is a large flat rock overlooking Sabino Dam. To get there, go back towards the steps that led you down from the traffic circle. Just before reaching the steps, turn right and head North up the “beach” parallel to the creek which is on your right. You will eventually see a large rock wall in front of you. It is about 50 feet long and 6 feet high. Immediately to the right of the wall is a large, flat slab of rock. Climb up to the top of the slab and you will see the dam. There is a steep drop off, so do not get too close to the edge.

    In the early 1900’s, a proposal was made to place a huge dam beyond where tram stop 9 is today at the end of the main tram road in order to provide hydroelectric power for Tucson. This project was abandoned when Sabino Creek ran dry. The project was resurrected years later to create a lake and resort hotel in the same area. This time the project failed because of a lack of funds. As a consolation prize to the City, this dam was built in 1937 by the Emergency Relief Administration. Most of the year, the water you see flowing over Sabino dam in the photo dries up. Note the large white Sycamore Tree on the left.

    From this point, go back down the rock, turn right and walk parallel to the wall to the end. Turn right and you can go down to the bottom of the dam. After visiting this area, return to the point where you left the end of the wall. Continue away from the wall towards a wide, rocky trail that leads up to the main trail (road). Turn right on the road and go to the top of the steps opposite the bathroom