Sabino Creek

Most people are familiar with the lower portion of Sabino Canyon with the tourist trams that run up and down the road, which makes for an interesting but typically crowded road walk.  Beyond the last tram stop the crowds disappear and the scenery changes a bit, I think it gets better.  The trail stays fairly high above Sabino Creek until it reaches the trail junction on the east fork.

Circa '96

These falls are near one of the tram stops and the pool is usually packed with people in the summer.  The pool was completely filled with sand for a while after the Aspen Fire but has since cleared out, though by 2008 it still hadn't cleared out to its prior extent.  Nobody was around when I took this photo since it was around dusk and fairly dim out, which also explains the long exposure.


I don't remember where I hiked to that day but I checked out the slot pool on the east fork on the way back which at the time only had a trickle of water flowing into it causing the ripples.


February 10, 2008
Kathryn and I hadn't been up Sabino Creek since the Aspen Fire or the flooding of 2006, so we were curious to see the damage done to the lower Sabino Canyon area.  I also wanted to check out the slot and pools upstream to see if they had filled in with debris or changed otherwise.


Uptrail from the last tram stop looking back down canyon, the road is in the shadow along the left of the creek.  The debris flows on the canyon wall at right are just a few of many from the 2006 monsoon flooding. 


These small falls come flowing into Sabino Creek from the west a little upstream from the last tram stop, but they usually aren't flowing.

 
Looking upstream at the site that almost became a dam in the 30's but fortunately never materialized.  Down along the streambed there are some bore holes in the cliffs from this project.  The creek makes a short turn to the right and back left through this cliffed section.  The second photo is looking upstream from just past the cliffs with Mt Lemmon rising way above in the left background.  The streambed was cleared of a lot of trees from the 2006 flood as well as excessive runoff after the Aspen Fire, so it has become more bouldery and bare in appearance than it used to be.

 
Looking up the west fork of Sabino Creek in the first photo and the east fork in the second.  In the first, Cathedral Peak is on the left and the junction of the two forks is at the bottom.


This is looking down from the trail at the east fork where it has cut its way into an apparently more resistant block of gneiss and formed the slot.


Kathryn at the point where the trail drops to the east fork and there's trail sign marking the trail split.  The sign used to be about waist high but has been buried by debris after the Aspen Fire.  This part of the creek was also less shaded by trees than I remember it being, the branch behind Kathryn looks like it belongs to a Mexican Blue Oak.  From here it's a short walk down the creek to the slot.

 
Kathryn perched above the main pool which is the same pool as the B&W photo above but with much higher flow.  The second photo is looking downstream of the pool, the reddish colored water caused by tannins picked up in the snowmelt.


Getting back to the trailhead which is very close to where the road is visible near center.  The snowmelt filled creek is glistening in the sun down below.  The Phoneline Trail can be seen contouring across the canyon slopes in the background.