Adventures from Back of Beyond

Monday, June 25, 2007

Picture Canyon


Picture Canyon is a hidden jewel next to a very nasty place. The juxtaposition couldn't be any more remarkable.

This beautiful little canyon, complete with cascades, waterfalls, and a lush riparian habitat, is surrounded by big ponderosa pines, colorful birds, and sensational prehistoric Indian rock art panels.

Just don't get too close to the water. It's minimally processed sewage.

The city of Flagstaff operates its Wildcat Treatment Plant just upstream on the much maligned Rio de Flag, which runs right through Picture Canyon. Effluent, brown and foamy, not the good tertiary stuff, pours down the Rio and through the canyon.

There was an era, no doubt, and especially when a good winter's snow was melting, that clean clear fresh water, basically just snow melt, would flow through this canyon, and it was a paradise.

Which is why generations of pre-Columbian people (Anasazi, or Hopi, or Sinagua, or some combination of whoever they were) would leave their clan marks on the volcanic rocks that form the walls of Picture Canyon.

After reading about and researching this little canyon, we found it one pleasant Sunday afternoon in June. Picture Canyon actually adjoins the Flagstaff city limits, located on State Trust land, and is easily accessible.

Potsherds abound. Some pieces are the dull utilitarian every day pottery. Others have colorful slip painted on the side. Some of this colorful stuff is the local red, others resemble the Anasazi pots from the Four Corners area, with geometric black and white patterns. Pieces of sharpened obsidian also are laying around. Impressive panels of petroglyphs seem to be waiting 'round every corner.

All in all, it's a fun place to explore. Just don't get too close to the water.

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