This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The rivers and creeks of Glendale and Peoria, Arizona


If you grew up in Minneapolis, like I did, it was easy to recognize a river, or a creek. In the Phoenix area, it's not so easy. That's because in Minneapolis they always have water in them, and in Phoenix, the water only flows seasonally. So you have to look more carefully. If you've done much hiking, you know what I mean.

A couple of years ago I started working on figuring out the different rivers and creeks that I have been crossing over in my car for many years now. And the more I learn, the more I see. There are a lot of bridges in my neighborhood, which for me is from Glendale Community College to the Arrowhead area.

It's quite a compliment to the Maricopa Country Flood Control District that most of the crossings over the rivers and creeks make them virtually invisible. It's not as if I see a sign anywhere that says, “don't cross when flooded”. You can cross all of the time, the bridges are there, and are just a continuation of the street. But I like reading the signs. I'll start with my favorite, which is...

• Skunk Creek. I see that sign as I cross over towards Arrowhead Mall on Bell Road at about 70th Avenue. Go ahead and do a Google map - there it is. It shows up as a blue line, but in real life, it's not really the kind of creek that I remember from being a kid, you know, with flowing water all of the time. Here in the desert, creeks and rivers are riparian, that is, you can see stuff growing there because the water flows seasonally, and the bed remains wet enough for plants with deep enough roots to grow all of the time, that would never survive on the desert floor. If you follow Skunk Creek southwest, it flows into...

• New River. Friends of mine who can put up with my sense of humor have often heard me complain that for as long as it's been there, it still has the name of New River. When the pioneers first saw it, they called it New River. 100 years from now it will probably still be called New River. Like all of waterways in the Salt River Valley, it flows southwest. It empties into...

• The Agua Fria River. In case anyone asks you, that's Spanish for Cold Water. It runs from north to south. It's been an obstacle to travel since the days of the pioneers, and still sometimes is. It runs just west of the 101 Freeway. Take a look at a satellite view, it's mostly a big gouge that is crossed by some very long bridges. The Agua Fria River empties out where...

• The Salt River and the Gila River combine with the Agua Fria. If you speak Spanish, you would call it Tres Rios (Three Rivers). The wetlands with that name is just east of there. And the Gila River carries all of this water out toward Yuma and ultimately into the Gulf of California, and the Pacific Ocean.

Above: Frank Midvale's map from 1969 of the New River area of Peoria, Arizona.


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