Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Greener Past of Tucson

Hello all,

Tucson is a fascinating place.  I've lived here for quite awhile now.  Some years we see a lot of rain and other times we see hardly anything.  And that is the desert.  People living here for years.....and I mean years have recalled upon a time when rain was a constant in the desert.  They remember especially the monsoon rains always arriving everyday around early afternoon.  Today, Tucson still gets those rains but they are irregular in pattern.  What surprised me most came from several audio pieces by older Tucsonans.  Most of them have passed now, but they recall a time when the Santa Cruz river was actually a river and not a wash.  Todays pics are taken from a historic website listed below this pic.  I was not alive during this time period because these were taken in the late 19th century and early 1900's.  I am thankful for records like these to help us remember what our Old Pueblo was like so long ago.
Specific info and pics found at this website
Most Tucsonans who have lived here for around 30 to 40 years recall the regular rains, but as the city of Tucson and Phoenix have grown larger so has the "Urban Island Effect."  Heat is absorbed into the concrete during the day and released back at night into the atmosphere creating a warm bubble around the city deflecting potential rain from falling onto the city.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the city of Phoenix where temps can stay into the 100's at night during the summer.  Tucson still cools down:) 
So what happened to the Santa Cruz river in Tucson?  Today it no longer flows in the area it used to pass.  This was not always the case, a combination of human errors and natural catastrophes in the late nineteenth century led to the decline of the Santa Cruz river.  Today it acts as a wash. The city of Nogales, Sonora has been releasing treated sewage into the Santa Cruz River. This has resulted in the revival of several miles of riverbank within and north of the city of Nogales, Arizona. 
Today some city leaders would like to see the Santa Cruz river running again as Tucson revives the downtown area in the "Rio Nuevo" project. It would again flow the same route it did over a hundred years ago.
We can't forget the affects of Buffel Grass on the landscape. What?  But surely this would green up a city. Not so fast.  It was introduced years ago to prevent soil erosion but what it did instead was spread across the Sonoran desert.  Today it threatens to destroy our landscape.  This grass has had a huge impact on the landscape during wildfire season.  Before Buffel Grass, vegetation was spread out and if a fire occurred by a lightening strike or campfire, it would soon extinguish itself out because there wasn't dry brush nearby.  Today fire encourages this grass to spread at an amazing speed.  The fires now last longer and burn at a higher intensity affecting our protected Saguaro cactus among other prized flora and fauna only found in this part of the world.  For more info on wildfires in Tucson, click here.
I look at this above pic and see someone on a boat or raft of some kind.  My grandparents came to Tucson over 60 years ago and bought an original Native American blanket.  These were the days of Cowboys vs. Indians.  Those days are all but gone.  Native Americans run casinos and the Cowboys now work in a cubicle and vice versa.
There was a lot of poaching back then, but today with conservation efforts, people are making great strides on bringing back endangered plants and animals to our desert.  The Jaguar and Ocelot are making a return. But I need to stay on topic...and green it is. The Pima Pineapple Cactus is making a very slow comeback. Conservation efforts are being made both on the Mexican and American sides to protect this cactus that mainly lives in Pima County.  Former ranching lands are reverting back to the original grasslands state near the Buenos Aires Bird Refuge.   This cactus is extremely endangered and continued threats include loss of habitat by suburbia, off road vehicle use, livestock grazing, agriculture, and surprise surprise....mining.  I will be covering these issues next week as we take a closer look at some of the issues Southern Arizona is currently facing.
So when people say Tucson was greener in the past, they may have been correct.  However, I'd like to think we are making a difference today in our city.  Tucson has its challenges as our city grows, but we, as a community, are very aware of how important our desert is to us.  Most of us moved here because of the landscape.  These pictures are an incredible trip back in time and view of what was:)  More tomorrow.....

1 comment:

  1. isn't it amazing what man can do to 1) ruin a natural place and 2) hopefully do something to correct it. :)


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