Falls Trail Stop 6

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Frijoles Creek flows all year

NPS Photo by Stella Carroll

If you stop and listen for a moment you will hear the babble and murmur of Frijoles Creek. Frijoles Creek flows all year. This availability of water allows plants such as the box elder and canyon grape to have larger water-losing leaves than plants growing on the surrounding mesas. The first human inhabitants were attracted to Frijoles Canyon by the wealth of resources created by the permanent stream.

Today Frijoles Creek continues the long, slow process of cutting through the geologic layers. Periodically flash floods turn the usually-quiet creek into a muddy, raging torrent carrying large rocks and trees. In 1977, a large wildfire (in the Middle Frijoles watershed) removed the soil-retaining plant cover from more than 9,000 acres of land within the monument. Several flash floods resulted including one that flooded the visitor center parking lot and moved tables at the picnic grounds. In August 2011 an even larger flash flood (over 7,000 cubic feet/second) destroyed the trail near Lower Falls. This flood was the result of Las Conchas Fire which had burned over 70% of upper Frijoles Canyon in June, 2011. The flood also left piles of debris in some areas while scouring other areas of all plant life.

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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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