When we arrived at Catalina State Park on Thursday afternoon, we were given a camper’s flood advisory notice, which stated:
You might have noticed that the park entrance road crosses a sandy wash about halfway between the entrance station and campground. As a result of vegetation loss during a forest fire in 2003, this wash is prone to flooding when it rains up in the mountains next to the park. We have no way of predicting when this wash might flow. When it does, it is possible for vehicles in the campground to be stranded there for up to several days. There is no danger to the campground itself. You just can’t get out of the park as long as the water flows. If the possibility of being stuck in the campground for several days presents a problem for you, we recommend that you consider leaving the park if you see significant rain falling in the mountains next to us. Light showers are normally not a problem. We do not come through the campground to tell people when they need to leave, because we cannot predict the timing or severity of a flow. We just ask you to be aware of weather conditions and take whatever precautions you feel are appropriate based upon this information.
Considering we were checking into the campground for a 2-week stay, being stranded for a few days would pose no problem for us.
As a matter of fact, I was kind of excited about the possibility of seeing a flood in the wash. We have friends who were stranded by just such a flood, but in 9 years, I’ve never seen so much as a trickle of water in that particular wash.
We got set up at our campsite and then Ed went out and stocked up on groceries – just in case.
Sure enough, it started to rain late that evening and not just a shower here and there, either. I rained steadily all night long.
After hearing that nearly 6 inches of rain had fallen on Mt. Lemmon overnight, we walked out to the wash on Friday morning and along with all the other folks who were doing exactly the same thing, exclaimed “WOW!” when we saw that it was now a fast-flowing river, chewing up the banks of the wash and sending logs racing downstream.
We knew no one was going anywhere that day.
In a way, it was kind of cool. Everyone was talking to everyone. We heard a couple of stories about campers who didn’t know about the possibility of a flood, where one partner ended up stranded on the ‘outside’, and others who were shocked to find out that they couldn’t get out of the park.
For those who were inside the park and didn’t know about the possibility, it might be helpful if Catalina State Park left those flood advisory notices at each campsite, or had a big notice board at the entrance to the park that reads “UNDER FLOOD WATCH” or something to make should everyone who enters or leaves the park is aware.
In another way, it felt rather weird and eerie around the park with the only vehicles moving about being those who drove to the wash or the trailhead. I’ve never seen the trailhead parking lot SO empty on a Saturday morning!
Speaking of Saturday morning, I awoke at 5AM to the sound of heavy equipment working down at the wash. When we got there later to see what state it was in, there were two loaders removing silt and debris from the roadway and creating a berm that constricted the outflow to a much narrower area.
I also went up to the trailhead to check out the washes that affected just the trails, but not the roads. NO ONE was going hiking on the loop any time soon!
Later that afternoon, the flow across the road had abated to the point where one of the loaders would open the berm to allow a few vehicles to pass through a flow that was around 5 to 6 inches in depth. After the cars had passed, and before a wider area of the road could be flooded and silted up again, he closed the berm in again with the loader.
Looked to me like they’d done this before! 🙂
Anyway, on Sunday morning, just in time for the last day of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, the road was open and we were free!
The strangest part of that experience, was the fact that as long as there is food in the fridge and I have a supply of relatively clean clothes, I am usually happy to stay in the campground for up to a week without leaving, yet KNOWING that there was no way out put me in a totally different mindset and I couldn’t wait to leave.
How weird is that?
So, have you ever been ‘stuck’ somewhere? Do tell! Just leave a comment below.