text by Maria Langer; photos by Mike Chilingerian
Photos ©2005 Michael Chilingerian and Flying M Air, LLC.
All rights reserved; may not be used without written permission.
Heavy rains caused flooding all along the Hassayampa River this past weekend. Watching the floodwaters take away homes and part of Jack Burden Road seemed a more popular pasttime than visiting the carnival at Gold Rush Days. At least that’s how the Phoenix TV crews looked at it. They all sent helicopters up to get footage of the damage and not a single one showed the festivities going on right across the river (see photo below).
I was airborne twice on Saturday. The first time, I was asked to “rescue” State Historian Marshall Trimble, who was stranded at the Kay El Bar Ranch. The ranch’s front yard had become waterfront property (see photo below) and, sandwiched between the Hassayampa and Martinez Wash, it was impossible to drive away. Mr. Trimble missed out on being the parade’s Grand Marshall for the first time in years (they should have called me earlier!), but he did get a good view of the flooding before I dropped him off at the airport.
When we heard that houses were falling into the river, Mike and I took out the helicopter and went to take a look. Sure enough, a huge portion of Jack Burden Road had been washed away and the two houses on the river side of the road there had gone with it. Power lines were down and water lines were broken. It was a mess. And all the time, the Hassayampa kept lapping at the new shoreline, threatening two homes that were now hanging precariously near the edge.
Curious to see what’s missing? I was, too. So I dug around in my Eye In The Sky archives and found a photo of downtown Wickenburg that included the missing section of road. Although this photo was taken from a much higher elevation and a different angle, it clearly shows the trees and red-roofed buildings that exist no more. The piece of road within the red circle here is gone and frankly, I’m not sure how they’re going to replace it now that the river’s course has changed.
Anyone lose a red car? There was one of those in the river, too, just upstream from the bridge. It looked like a convertible from the air, but it really could have been anything. Now it’s a wreck. I hope there wasn’t someone in it when the river’s flow took it downstream.
We flew up the river a bit, too. Here’s a photo of J.J. Fletcher’s ranch. Fortunately, his house is high and dry (note the green roof in the lower left corner), but much of his land is submerged. J.J.’s place is on Rincon Road and requires a river crossing to reach. The folks on that stretch of Rincon Road are probably using Blue Tank Road to Constellation Road to get from home to town and back.
We also flew down the river a bit. I was amazed to see how much of Horspitality’s horse boarding area was under water. I’m not sure where all the horses are now, but if you have spare corral space in Wickenburg, you may want to call the Horspitality folks (684-2519) and offer to help them out. More rain is on the way this week, so the flooding problem will not be going away anytime soon. This is your chance to lend a helping hand to some of our winter visitors with horses.
As I sit at my window, looking out toward the river, I see another helicopter flying overhead. More new footage, I guess. Nothing new is happening on the river right now; the waters have receeded a bit. But it’ll take Wickenburg some time to recover from the Hassayampa’s wrath.
Now exactly where did they plan to build that “bypass”? In the river bed? Perhaps the river is trying to tell them what a bad idea that really is.