Camelology with Ranger Jim - Effects of Heavy Rains

Posted by Jes Shapiro on

CamelbackCulture is all about Crushing on the Camel— Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona.  We at CamelbackCulture want to learn and share more about how we all can take the best care of our Mountain possible and enjoy our time on the trail as safely as possible. Introducing our newest blog feature: Camel-ology… the study of the Camel

Camelback Mountain may be a mighty hunk of rock, but she needs some tender loving care too.  Ranger Jim was nice enough to talk to us about the damage caused by our recent heavy rains. Giving us insight into what happens to our beloved trails and recommendations for ways we can respond to keep our them maintained for use

Praying Monk Rock Formation at Camelback Mountain

After a Heavy Desert Downpour

Anyone that lives in the Valley knows, we’ve recently received considerably more rain than usual.  Besides bringing us an outpouring of spring wildflowers, what else has that rain done to affect our trails? Ranger Jim spoke to us from “Echo Canyon… beautiful downtown Camelback” this past week

The ground is soaked.  Jim elaborates, “one to two feet deep… what doesn’t run off and take parts of the trail with it, gets soaked and wet.” A fact that is obvious along the trail— including the unusual sight of puddles days after the last storms. When ground that is usually very dry and hard gets that wet, unexpected things can happen.  Like this past week when the visiting hiker got injured on the Cholla side.

The hiker, faced with a narrow point in the trail, chose to step to the side and allow others to pass.  In doing so he “reached up and held on to the top of a boulder and pulled it right out of the ground,” Jim tells us.  The now extremely wet earth allowed the man to pull the large boulder onto himself… resulting in “extensive lower extremity injuries,” according to Phoenix Fire Department spokesman, Capt. Rob McDade in an article (found here)

The accident prompted the City Of Phoenix parks department to close Camelback Mountain through the following day, allowing time for the trail to be inspected and our hardworking Rangers and Trail Stewards to make repairs


What is a Berm?

Besides the damage caused by the rain and water run off, what other damage occurs to trails in these conditions? “We naturally kick rocks out of the way and dirt moves out of the way,” as we walk, Ranger Jim goes on, “and it piles up on the sides.” That’s under normal conditions, with muddy trails, our steps are even more impactful. “If the ground is soft and squishy, you walk across it, you smoosh the mud down even more… it just makes it worse.” This results in the creation of berms

A berm is “a raised edge on the edge of the trail that makes it a channel and traps water on the trail.” And anyone that’s had a plumbing leak know, water is seriously damaging.  That fact is true for our trails as well. Ranger Jim describes the ideal trail, it “has a slope to the downhill side across it… so water can leave the side easily.” Better drainage allows for less destruction to the trail. We are all safer when our trails are in better condition

CamelbackCulture Echo Canyon Switchbacks


Jim tells us, berms and trail wear “just happens from all the foot traffic,” but when the weather creates less than ideal conditions, we cause even more damage.  Ideally, he recommends allowing trails to dry our at least two days before hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.  That’s right, humans are not the most destructive forces on trails after the intense storms and rainfall. “1500lbs of animal stomping on this same soft ground…” you get the picture he’s trying to paint.

Ranger Jim knows that we won’t be totally deterred from enjoying the privilege of our parks and public lands at will, but hopes we will consider how to take better care of them so they may continue to be safely enjoyed.

 CamelbackCulture Community on Summit at Sunrise

Thank You

CamelbackCulture thanks Ranger Jim Sweazy for his time and information. Please take the time to appreciate our Phoenix Parks Department, the Rangers and Volunteer Trail Stewards.  They keep the trails maintained for our enjoyment. See you on the Rock everyone and stay safe in all parts of life

Please check back by for future Camelback Culture Camel-ology Blog posts. Be sure to keep up with the Community by following us on Instagram and Facebook for more Culture - Clothes - Community


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