The only campground at the popular Chiricahua National Monument has been closed indefinitely.
Two factors led to the closure: fire and flooding.
Last year's massive Horseshoe 2 Fire burned over most of the 11,985-acre monument southeast of Willcox - and that set the stage for likely flash flooding of the 25-site Bonita Canyon Campground during this year's monsoon.
"In normal years, the campsites are not impacted by floodwater. However, in post-fire conditions the risk of flooding those campsites increases substantially," said Lane Baker, superintendent of the monument.
She said the increased risk stems from the loss of large expanses of vegetation.
"The Horseshoe 2 Fire burned much of the vegetation in the drainage above the campground," Baker said. "The combined effects of reduced vegetation cover and saturated soils result in much less rainfall soaking into the soil. Instead, more of this rainfall runs off the landscape, leading to flash floods."
Baker said a rainfall of less than an inch earlier this week caused moderate flooding and prompted closure of the campground.
"Our rainfall records dating back to 1909 indicate we will likely receive much larger storms and much larger flooding events before the end of the 2012 monsoon season," Baker said.
She said some campsites could be reopened when the flood risk declines, and the campground will return to full capacity when the monsoon is over.
did you know?
The spectacular rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument stem from a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago. Ash particles from the eruption fused together to form a type of rock known as rhyolite. Geologic forces later created joints and cracks in the rhyolite. Then, over eons, erosive effects of water, ice and wind sculpted the rock into formations we see today.
Campsites will become available when the risk of flooding subsides. Call the Chiricahua National Monument visitor center at 1-520-824-3560, Ext. 302, for information.
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at email@example.com or at 573-4192.