Finding Springs to Protect and Restore in the Bighorn Fire Area of the Santa Catalina Mountains

One year after the colossal Bighorn Fire burned 120,000 acres in Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains, ecosystems are recovering. In these ecosystems, springs are a critical feature of the post-burn landscape and provide water for wildlife and opportunities for regrowth of plants.  

Photo caption: Annabel spring in the Santa Catalinas, January 2021.

Fire can be beneficial, especially for plants that have evolved to reproduce when there is a fire. But they can also be problematic for some ecosystems. For instance, some of the potential impacts of fire on springs include a concern that the source of the spring might get buried by landslides or debris, that the water quality might change, or that there could be a loss of important and rare flora / fauna species. 

Photo caption: A map of Bighorn Fire springs and local burn severity.

We don’t yet know how all the springs in the Santa Catalinas have been affected by the Bighorn Fire. In this image from August 22, 2021, you can see regrowth of green plants in the area of Maverick Spring, a water source located on the north side of the Santa Catalinas. Plants are growing back faster around the spring than in other areas in the photo, and this site remains important for local wildlife.

Photo caption: Regrowth around Maverick Spring in the Santa Catalinas, August 2021.

In case you missed it and want to know more, you can watch a recording of our recent coffee break on fire and springs and learn how to use our Spring Seeker survey phone app to collect data on springs.

Become a Spring Seeker Extraordinaire!

We’ve recently applied for funding to enhance water sources for wildlife around springs in the Santa Catalina Mountains this fall, particularly in areas affected by the Bighorn Fire.

To find important sites, we need your help! Join us as a Spring Seeker in the Santa Catalinas. Visit our Spring Seeker program page to get started.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to me, Sarah, at [email protected].

Helpful Spring Seeker Resources:

Use Spring Seeker Waters and the Bighorn Springs Trip Planning Document to pick a spring to survey.

Read our Spring Seeker Installation Instructions, User Guide, and Safety Documents. 

Watch our Spring Seeker training webinars: Springs 101, Spring Seeker Training, and Wilderness Waters Training.