Miller and Butte Creeks meet at a confluence, also known as an intersection. As these two creeks meet, so do the wildlife that use them. Local wildlife depend on these creeks for food, water, shelter, and travel corridors.
Wildlife that depend on these creeks or food, shelter, and travel corridors include coyote, mule deer, javelina, raccoon, garter snakes, and many birds.
Sadly, less than 10% of Arizona’s riparian areas are still healthy, so we need to protect, restore, and celebrate what is left!
Did you know? Riparian areas of the American Southwest are home to the greatest number of bird species anywhere in the world except tropical rain forests.
Watch Out! It's a Gully Washer!
Imagine approaching your local creek and seeing the entire area under surging floodwaters! Floods periodically overflow stream banks, depositing tons of silt to create a floodplain. These floodplain soils form seedbeds for Upper Granite Creek Watershed riparian (streamside) forest of cottonwood, willow, ash, and walnut trees.
Did you know? Floods are important to healthy riparian forests.
Riparian forests like the one at Granite Street Park at Miller Creek help reduce the impacts of downstream floods by absorbing and slowing floodwaters. This is one more example of why we need to care for our riparian communities as a vital part of Prescott’s natural landscape. Local creek restoration projects like the one just upstream from here offer citizens the opportunity to engage in riparian stewardships.
In Prescott Wherever You Stand, You Stand in a Watershed
Did you know? A watershed has mountain peaks and ridges as boundaries. Its rivers and streams collect all the rainfall and snowmelt within it.
The Granite Creek Watershed is one of the headwaters (beginning sources) of the Verde River. As each tributary flows into Granite Creek, its waters gain momentum until they reach Chino Valley’s deep, porous soils. There it still flows, more slowly and underground, to the Verde River. The Waters of the Verde River meander 190 miles east and south to join with the Salt River, then on to the Gila River, Colorado River, and eventually to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
Granite Creek flows through the heart of Prescott and provides us with the namesake for the popular city park called Granite Creek Park. Healthy creeks instill a sense of community pride and well-being. They also offer a place to enjoy and connect with nature, even in an urban area.
Revisit the map at the top of this page to find where the eight tributaries of Granite Creek flow through Prescott. Begin at the headwaters of a tributary (furthest upstream point), following it down to its confluence (intersection) with Granite Creek. So, the next time you walk, ride, or drive by one of Prescott’s creeks, remember that wherever you stand, you stand in a watershed! And it's all connected.
Is This Creek Healthy?
As you likely already discovered, the Upper Granite Creek Watershed map shows the creeks of Prescott winding through town, adding special qualities to the community. Taking care of our community includes ensuring our creeks and other natural spaces stay healthy. So, what are the signs of healthy creeks?
Healthy: Native Fremont cottonwood and velvet ash trees provide food, shelter, and shade for wildlife. See examples in the photos above, but also look for these trees the next time you visit one of the Prescott creeks.
Not Healthy: Non-native Siberian elm and ailanthus (also known as tree of heaven) trees crowd out native vegetation and are not as useful to Arizona’s native wildlife. Study the photos below and when you next visit, count how many you see. Get involved with restoration efforts to help remove these invasive species.
Siberian elm - Invasive
ailanthus (tree of heaven) - Invasive
Healthy: Broad floodplains allow streams to wind through the landscape. As we learned in Watch Out! It's a Gully Washer!, the silt deposited helps riparian forests to regenerate. Granite Creek Park and Watson Woods Riparian Preserve are excellent examples of broad floodplains.
Not Healthy: If retaining walls are built near creeks, the water is restricted, making it flow faster. This quick water flow causes more erosion and deepens the channel over time. Retaining walls prevent deposits of silt that are so vital to healthy riparian forests. The first of these high concrete walls along Granite Creek was built in the early 1900s as downtown Prescott expanded to avoid flooding businesses and homes.
Healthy: Clean creek waters support healthy populations of aquatic life, which in turn supports native birds and other wildlife.
Not Healthy: Harmful chemicals washed into creeks from urban areas pollute the water, harming riparian plants and animals.
Did you know? You can make a difference! Everything we do in our neighborhoods and industrial areas can alter the quality of our creeks. Join us as stewards!
Plant native vegetation instead of exotics and grass in your yard.
Avoid fertilizer, herbicide, and insecticide use. These eventually make their way into local creeks.
Maintain your car so dangerous chemicals do not leak onto roads and wash into our creeks.
Incorporate water saving appliances and practices into your home.
Get involved in a creek restoration project!
Our Creeks are Alive!
Water is not only found above ground, but also below ground. Prescott's creeks and wildlife benefit from below ground water in the water table. The creeks are rich with life even during the driest summer season and their lush vegetation provides homes for an amazing variety of wildlife.
The high water table benefits humans also. By March of 1881, fire wellswere hand-dug on the four corners of the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott, allowing bucketing of water for fire emergencies until prior to 1900. Healthy creeks are part of a healthy community. We celebrate our local creeks as places where you can hear birds singing, search for animal tracks, or simply take a break from bustling sidewalks. The community of Prescott is working to protect and restore these waterways that are so rich in natural and cultural history.
broad tailed hummingbird
Respect Your Elders!
Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is home to many cottonwood trees, the oldest of which are more than 100 years old! They have witnessed floods, fires, majestic wildlife, and human cultures come and go. This 125 acre preserve harbors the largest patch of riparian forest left in Prescott.
In the mid-1900s, livestock grazing and gravel mining were prevalent in the area, reducing the native riparian forest habitat. Today, much of the vegetation between Watson Lake and the industrial park has regrown. Now managed as the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, it shows the amazing potential of riparian areas to come back to life! Did you know? Riparian habitat supports a large number of Arizona’s wildlife. As you explore, look closely and you may see bobcat, coyote, great blue heron, bald eagle, great horned owl, black-crowned night heron, belted kingfisher, common kingsnake, western terrestrial garter snake, alligator lizard, and tree lizard. Sometimes looking for evidence of animals that live or pass through riparian or other natural habitats is just as fun. Investigate tracks, spot claw marks, or even step over scat.