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Pima Canyon bedrock mortars, check dams & their springs

The creek in Pima Canyon is dry for most of the year, yet it supports an excellent example of a desert riparian habitat, and which native plants could do well in similar microclimates within water-harvesting earthworks in your yard or along your neighborhood street.

About 3 miles up, you’ll find some mortared check dams, within the creek. Seep springs have formed where the water collected within the sediment on the upstream side of the check dams seeps out on the downstream side of the check dams.

Here you will also find mortar holes in the bedrock made by people indigenous to the area as this is where you find both the velvet mesquite tree (which produces delicious edible seed pods) and the emory oak (which produces delicious acorns). The mesquite and oak trees act as living water pumps and cisterns, and people have long accessed that “water” in the form of the trees’ edible foods which were ground into flour and meal with stone or wooden pestles within the mortar holes.

How did, and do, people more consciously live and collaborate with the natural abundance that is ideally suited to the climate, soils, and wildlife of here; rather than depending on ever more resources extracted and imported from elsewhere at huge environmental and financial costs?

There are over 400 native food plants in the Sonoran Desert, that don’t need supplemental irrigation once established. Which ones do you know, and how many have you tasted? So many are delicious! The book Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert by Wendy Hodgson is a great guide.

“Pima” is the name early Spanish explores used for the O’odham people indigenous to the area.


1610 E Magee Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718
32.35383472819743, -110.94817041904054

Hours: Dawn to dusk for trailhead parking lot gate (you can always drive out the exit, but entrance gate in is locked at night).

Trail is always open.

Cost: Free

No dogs allowed as this is wilderness area and populated by big horn sheep

food forestryhistoric water management and infrastructurenatural oasispassive water harvesting in soil and vegetationrainwater harvestingstormwater harvesting

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