Fossil Springs ArizonaI went for a beautiful, brutal, and much-needed overnight hike this weekend. The water was amazing, warm, and the air temperature was just warm enough (80s?) to make me want to swim. However, even after I filtered some of the water for drinking, the minerals made me feel unwell. The calcium carbonate in the water gives it a blue-green hue and leads to the rapid formation of travertine dams, with fallen branches, moss and debris. Eventually the dams become solid stone. I could see travertine formations in various stages.

The Fossil Springs ecosystem is being restored. The most barren of my photos shows the dam, which was decommissioned and partly dismantled to restore the natural flow of the creek. The water was previously diverted into a flume for transport to a small hydroelectric power plant.

On one set of travertine dams, javelinas were rooting for something to eat. My advance scared them away from their idyllic feeding grounds. I also saw a striped kingsnake, rabbits, young bald eagles and lots of native fish.

Unfortunately, the area is overrun with people, many of whom seem less interested in nature than the ability to smash bottles and get high on various substances outside the view of authorities. No rangers were anywhere to be seen. The area has no services, no fees, no clearly defined trail, no toilet facilities. With the high number of visitors, a gem of Arizona is threatened. I’m not sure what the answer is, but something needs to change.

More about Fossil Creek’s restoration