Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona has been handed a double-whammy in the form of fire and water. First a wildfire burned more than 1,000 acres, and now monsoon rains have washed out some roads.
The Deer Head Fire, which was sparked by lightning in the Saguaro Wilderness Area within the Rincon Mountain District, had burned 1,097 acres through Tuesday and was roughly 55 percent contained. While firefighters worked to keep the flames away from the historic Manning Camp, most other areas of the fire were allowed to burn while being monitored.
Lightning-ignited fires are important in maintaining healthy forests in the mountains of southern Arizona. Fire historically burned through the high elevation ponderosa pine forests of southeastern Arizona every few years. This low to moderate intensity surface fire is benefitting a fire-adapted ecosystem by clearing the forest floor of brush, grass, and ponderosa pine and oak litter, improving wildlife habitat and reducing hazardous fuel loads.
But while the monsoons that arrived this week helped the firefighters, they also caused flash flooding in the park's Tucson Mountain (West) District. The flooding Tuesday afternoon "damaged and washed out many segments of the Scenic Bajada Loop Drive. As a result, all of the dirt roads in the Tucson Mountain (West) District, except the segment leading to the Sus Picnic Area, have been closed at this time. Closed roads include Hohokam Road and Golden Gate Road," a park release noted.
"Paved roads in the area, such as Kinney Road, Sandario Road and Picture Rocks Road remain open, though drivers and cyclists are cautioned that there may still be debris and flooding in area dependent on weather conditions."
Park crews were working to repair the damaged roads, and notifications were to be posted on the park's website as updates on road conditions are available. At this time, all trails in the Tucson Mountain (West) District remain open, though visitors are advised to be aware that there may be additional rain and resulting erosion in the area.