Fossil Creek's Revival Comes At A Cost Of History


by Cloyd Henline
May I serve as the devil's advocate and comment at some length about the great victory achieved by the environmental cognoscenti, namely the Center for Biological Diversity, the Northern Arizona Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the American Rivers and the Nature Conservancy.

At long last, Fossil Creek shall run free and not be confined and constrained by what was and is one of the outstanding engineering projects of its time.

The logistics involved in the construction of (the Childs and Irving hydroelectric plants) is incomprehensible to today's citizenry. In 1908, work was started on this project, the first order of business being the construction of 40 miles of road from the nearest railhead at Mayer, through nearly impassable terrain.

Everything that was required, from food to construction materials to generators to high-pressure pipe for the penstock, had to be transported by wagon train from the railhead. Some of the heavier pieces of equipment required a 26-mule team to transport the load to its destination. Requisite supplies, materials and equipment were obtained from various sources: the West Coast, the Midwest, the East Coast, and the welded pipe for the penstock from the Krupps Gun Works in Germany.

An engineering project of epic proportions.

I note, with a great degree of puzzlement that the environmental cognoscenti failed to call attention to the fact that when the flumes are removed and Fossil Creek is again running free, Stehr Lake, 27.5 acres of water called home by innumerable fish, waterfowl and other animals for lo these 90 years, will find that Stehr Lake no longer exists.

For the uninformed, this lake was originally constructed as an alternate source of water to the Childs Power Plant when repairs and maintenance activities shut off the flume's water flow.

And, I might mention, that if the aficionados of the unsullied hiking trail wish to traverse a year-round free-flowing stream and do not want to wait for several years for Fossil Creek to revert, all they have to do is move north into the next drainage basin, West Clear Creek, which is also in the Verde River Drainage complex.

This hiking area is not for the Sunday hiker, but for an experienced outdoorsman. It can offer some beautiful vistas.

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