Last of 2017 in Dead Horse Canyon – 12/25/2017 and 12/31/2017

Looking up at Table Mountain from Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.
Looking up at Table Mountain from Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.

Dead Horse Canyon – Frog Mountain Blues – p. 61:

Buster looks at the mountains and shifts to teaching the old geography, one that has slightly different notes from the modern hiking maps. The first gouge to the west he calls Alamo Canyon because there used to be a big cottonwood up there. Then comes Cement Tank because they put a trough in there. After that is Dead Horse for a dead horse found one day. Then Montrose on whose upper reaches Buster Spring bubbles away. And over the ridge from that is Romero for the old ranching family that came into the county in the nineteenth century. When Buster arrived in the 1920s they were still here, still ranching. And they became his neighbors.

The USFS's FSTopo map on the left with Dead Horse Canyon labeled - the USGS Topo on the right without Dead Horse Canyon labeled. January 2018.
The USFS’s FSTopo map on the left with Dead Horse Canyon labeled – the USGS Topo on the right without Dead Horse Canyon labeled. January 2018.
A pool in Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.
A pool in Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.
Point 4262 above Deadhorse Canyon. December 2017.
Point 4262 above Deadhorse Canyon. December 2017.

Dead Horse Canyon is in the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Management Area – lacking an official trail travel into this area is prohibited from January until May, but the summer heat means that it will be next winter before a pleasant visit is possible.

Bighorns have been documented in Dead Horse Canyon for many years – according to And Then There were None 8% of the Bighorn Observations made from 1936 to 1978 were in Dead Horse Canyon (p.88) and the photo shown below (of bighorn in Dead Horse Canyon) is described as “the largest number of sheep ever photographed as a group in the Santa Catalinas”. In 1972 bighorn permits were issued to 5 hunters, 2 kills were made – one at the head of Dead Horse Canyon (the last permits issued were in 1992).

An excerpt from page 4 of the AZGFD 2011 Bighorn Restoration Project Proposal showing a photo captioned in part as
An excerpt from page 4 of the AZGFD 2011 Bighorn Restoration Project Proposal showing a photo described as “the largest number of sheep ever photographed as a group in the Santa Catalinas” in Paul Krausman’s And Then There Were None – photo by Joe Sheehy. Excerpt made January 2018.
Looking down and out Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.
Looking down and out Dead Horse Canyon, the Tortolita Mountains in the distance. December 2017.
Black Mountain in the sunset light from the mouth of Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.
Black Mountain in the sunset light from the mouth of Dead Horse Canyon. December 2017.

Bighorn, Crossing, Decapitation, Comet, Snow, App, Rescues – 11/15/2015

There are plans to release 30 bighorn sheep from near Yuma into the Santa Catalina Mountains during the third week of November. Pneumonia – identified as the cause in a number of recent deaths – is still a concern but the bighorn planned for the release “have been previously exposed to the illness and are therefore resistant to it.” More Bighorn Sheep Coming to Santa Catalinas Near Tucson – Arizona Public Media, More bighorns coming to Catalina Mountains next month – Arizona Daily Star.

Wildlife crossings pave the way for biodiversity in Sonoran Desert – Arizona Sonora News: There is an exciting project that is part of the widening of Oracle Road – two wildlife crossings that will help link the Tortolita and Santa Catalina Mountains! The Arizona Department of Transportation has a single sheet overview of the project that is quite informative. While the project is not finished it appears that a tortoise is the first documented user of the new crossing!

Decapitated deer found tied to tree on Mount Lemmon – Near Molino Basin a deer that had been shot and decapitated was found tied to a tree on Nov. 6 – there is a $2,000 reward for information (contact Operation Game Thief – 1-800-352-0700). A quote from the article: “This case is very troubling, given the nature of the crime scene. We are outraged by this, and expect that the general public will be as well” – Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson.

Mt. Lemmon biz looking forward to El Nino winter – “General Manager [of the Sawmill Run Restaurant] Steven Sanders said the more snow, the more people come up and the more jobs there will be to go around.”

First snowfall of season on Mt. Lemmon brings out plenty of sightseers – Tucson News Now: First snow of the Season!

Catalina State Park: Blue skies, flowing water – Arizona Daily Star, Sabino Canyon gearing up for busy season – Tucson News Now: Two articles that are a great reminder that we are starting to have days with amazing weather for getting outside to the desert/lower elevation areas of the mountain!

Long Term Permit for Sabino Canyon Shuttle Services – USFS: This page contains information about the proposed 20-year special use permit for the shuttle system in Sabino Canyon. The SCRA Shuttle Scoping Letter has some interesting notes about the project including a list of design features that mentions minimizing conflicts between the shuttle/hikers/bikers and reducing ‘auditory impacts’ from the shuttle that seem to depend on ‘modernizing [the] existing 1970s era shuttle fleet’.

Space junk crashing toward Earth found by Mount Lemmon lab – Arizona Daily Star: Space debris – possibly an old rocket booster – that entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Indian Ocean was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey!

Comet named after Catalina Mountains may soon be seen with naked eye – Tucson News Now: Comet Catalina will soon be at its closest to the sun and may be visible with the naked eye. The comet was discovered in 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey. This post from has information on locating the comet in the sky.

Closure of shooting sites on Redington Pass extended – Arizona Daily Star: Three unofficial shooting areas off Redington Road that were closed for clean up will remain closed until next year while the Forest Service works on a management plan for the Redington Pass area.

Motorcyclist airlifted after Mt. Lemmon crash – Tucson News Now: non life-threatening injuries sustained in a crash near milepost 17.

UA College of Science Produces Mount Lemmon Audio Tour – UANews: The University of Arizona College of Science has produced a mobile app for Android and iPhone called ‘The Mount Lemmon Science Tour’. The app is largely a guided audio tour with great accessible science content (how the mountain formed, life zones, water, …) that is timed for a drive up the mountain.

Rescues/Accidents/Incidents including information from the SARCI Newsletter:

  • Crystal Spring Trail – 10/25: Exhaustion results in a hiker carried out to the Control Road
  • Blackett’s Ridge – 10/7: Ankle injury, hiker carried out.
  • Seven Cataracts – 10/2: Hiker injured in a fall on the unofficial trail/route from the Seven Cataracts Overlook to the pools in Seven Cataracts – hoisted out and transferred to a medical helicopter.
  • Sutherland Trail – 9/23: Lost hiker calls for help after being unable to follow the trail – the current trail conditions plus attractiveness of this route continue to cause incidents.

Lambs, Funds, Star Party, Oracle State Park, Winter Weather

The Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project Status update for 1/15 to 1/28 is now available (all updates are currently available here):

  • Five lambs have been sited! The update links to a video of several of the previously sited lambs: Bighorn lambs & ewes in Santa Catalinas.
  • Residents in the area of Ina Road and 1st Avenue reported 3 Bighorn to AZGF. GPS data confirms that these Bighorn have moved into the edge of the urban area bordering the Pusch Ridge Wilderness several times and also notes several other urban sightings: a Ram was seen several times last year by Oracle Residents and two ewes documented in the Ventana Canyon and Finger Rock Estates areas. “Our intent is to encourage the Catalina bighorn sheep to use appropriate habitat removed from the urban interface and hope that incursions into urban areas will be rare if at all.”
  • The report breaks has some information on the funding sources for this project:
    • 31% State Tag Funds
    • 23% Private Grants and Donations with most of the donations “from sportsmen oriented groups and individuals” including large donations by the Arizona Chapter of Safari Club International, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society and Safari Club International Foundation.
    • 46% From the Pittman-Robertson fund – this is a federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition, accessories and achery equipment that provides funds to manage wildlife.

Catalina State Park will host a Star Party on Feb. 21 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm – the event will start with a presentation by Jim O’Connor with excerpts from his book, Native American Night Sky Stories, and there will be a variety of telescopes at the event. See the Arizona Star Party Astronomy Events page for more details and for other dates at throughout the year at Arizona State Parks!

Arizona hike: Oracle State Park – – Mare Czinar: A short article about the hiking in Oracle State Park – the days that the park are open to the public are limited (currently Saturday and Sunday 8am to 5pm) but it is well worth finding an open day to visit!

Winter weather! There was rain and snow that temporarily closed the highway and caused 3 hikers to be stranded due to rushing water in the Sabino Canyon Area. Winter weather closes highway up Mt. Lemmon – Carissa Planalp –, Snow in mountains, rain in Tucson valley expected –, Three hikers stranded because of rushing waters – Ina Ronquillo – KGUN9.

Buffelgrass, Lemmon, Lions, Events, Sledding

Beat Back Buffelgrass Day 2015 – Beat Back Buffelgrass Day is January 24th – there are a number of different locations around Tucson including Catalina State Park with The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection!

Street Smarts: Highway, mountain named for botanist – Arizona Daily Star – David Leighton: Information on where the name ‘Mount Lemmon’ comes from.

Tucson Lion Killings Dropped Dramatically in 2014 – Kierán Suckling – Center for Biological Diversity – This press release from the Center for Biological Diversity points out that Mountain Lion kills by Hunters and Ranchers declined in the Catalina and Rincon Mountains in 2013 and 2014 (according to AZGF records). The release notes that in 2014 no Lions were killed in the ‘Bighorn Sheep Protected Area’ that was put in place in 2013 and bans hunting with hounds in an area similar to the Bighorn Sheep Closure Area that restricts recreational use in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness (see the current Arizona Hunting Regulations for the details of the ‘Bighorn Sheep Protected Area’).

Oracle State State Park Events – See the Oracle State Park Homepage for more details.

  • Saturday, January 24: Winter Evening Stargazing Event: Music, a “Ancient Native American Astronomical Practices” presentation and stargazing with telescopes – this is a great follow-up to the International Dark Sky Park status that park gained last year!
  • Saturday, January 31: Guided ‘Manzanita to Mariposa’ Loop Hike
  • Saturday, January 31: Arizona Trail Virtual Tour: Sirena Dufault will present on the Arizona Trail!

The snow at the start of the year resulted in great sales for businesses in Summerhaven – the General Store sold ‘around a thousand sleds!’. Restricted access to Mount Lemmon did not slow weekend business – Tucson News Now – Craig Reck, Mt. Lemmon businesses booming – – Domenica Fuller: 

Mt. Lemmon sledding accidents send eight to the hospital over the weekend – – Lauren Reimer: “The most common injuries the sledders received were head injuries and broken bones.” The article mentions two interesting details – the injuries happened to both children and adults, and that from New Year’s Eve to January 6th ‘about ten thousand people have visited Summerhaven’.

Wood pile burning to continue on Mt. Lemmon – KGUN9 – Ina Ronquillo

AZGF Requests Voluntary Early Bighorn Closure, Ice

AZGFD prepares for lambs; trail restrictions in place till April – Sean Mooney and Anthony Reyes –, Wildlife officials to hikers: Help protect bighorns – Douglas Kreutz – Arizona Daily Star: The official Bighorn Sheep Closure in the Santa Catalina Mountains starts on January 1 and runs until April 30 – AZGF is asking hikers to voluntarily begin observing the closure immediately. The reason for the request is speculation that the lambing season will start early this year for ewes brought from the Canyon Lake area northeast of Phoenix (there are reports of lambs being born already this year in that area).

Limited access to Mt. Lemmon Highway due to icy roads – Tucson News Now: Open with restrictions – storms this time of year could cause changes at any time!