In my time living in the Sky Islands, I’ve made a habit of seeking out any water source that’s just deep enough to plop down in and taking a dunk. Finding water to jump in is one of my favorite pastimes, even when it’s freezing cold, or tiny! And, you can combine swimming hole visitation with birding another of my favorite pastimes.
There’s more of these wet spots than you might think. And while in most places you have to stretch out long and flat to immerse yourself in a foot of water. In some special spots there are beautiful deep pools. One of my favorites is in the South Fork of Cave Creek.
On the East Side of the Chiricahua Mountains is a magically wet and beautiful canyon – Cave Creek Canyon. The small town of Portal sits at the mouth of the Canyon, an area notable for stunning rock monoliths, beautiful scenery, and an amazing diversity of bird life.
Once a proposed site for mining—this area has been permanently withdrawn from mineral extraction thanks to the hard work of local residents, scientists and others who recognized how incredible this place is. The Cave Creek Protection Act of 1993 withdrew all Federal lands in the Cave and Silver Creek drainages from mineral entry to protect the diversity life and beauty found here.
The South Fork of Cave Creek, which flows into Cave Creek is a great place for a stroll to see Trogon and Mexican Spotted Owl at dusk. The perennial water here sustains a large diversity of bird and insect life. Along the mainstem of Cave Creek residents have worked to build pond habitats for Chiricahua Leopard Frogs in cooperation with Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coronado National Forest and Sky Island Alliance. If you’re lucky you might spot one of these endangered frogs at the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History or at Ash Spring where Sky Island Alliance brought back pond habitat and frogs and tadpoles have been spotted in recent years.
And once you’ve had your fill of this part of the mountain, you can continue up to Turkey creek. Another one of my other favorite Sky Island creeks to take a dunk in.
Or from the Chiricahua Regional Council