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The upper portion of Bonita Canyon Drive and the Bonita Canyon Campground in Chiricahua National Monument (NM) are closed after flooding from heavy rains that passed through the area last night. Nearly three inches of rain fell in parts of the monument in the evening hours of Tuesday, July 24. The heaviest rains occurred between 7:00 and 8:00 pm and the monument was closed around 8:30 pm.
The entire Bonita Canyon Drive was closed overnight and the lower portion is scheduled to reopen today after crews are able to assess the damages and clean up debris. Significant mud and debris flow, rockslides, downed trees, and damage to the roadbed has left the upper portion of the Bonita Canyon Drive (past the visitor center) unsafe for travelers.
The Bonita Canyon Campground also sustained moderate damage from the flooding. Fortunately, the monument had instituted pre-emptive closures two weeks ago for the campsites most at risk for flooding. Although several campers were in the sites that had remained open, no flooding or property damage occurred in those areas. Over 18 inches of standing water, mud and silt made its way into the historic restroom building in the campground. Cleanup and repairs to the roadway and campground are estimated to take several days and the road and campground remain closed until further notice.
Chiricahua NM is open to visitors. The lower portion of Bonita Canyon Drive is open and features access to historic Faraway Ranch, day-use picnic areas, a visitor center and bookstore, and several trailheads. Trails in the monument are passable but users may encounter debris piles and loose soils.
Hikers are reminded that areas that have experienced large fires, such as the Horseshoe II fire that burned over 200,000 acres in and around Chiricahua NM in 2011, have an increased risk of flash flooding. Floods are significantly larger following fires and floodwater can carry debris that could be hazardous. Visitors are encouraged to check weather forecasts before heading out and pay attention to their surroundings. Soils in a burned landscape can create slippery conditions, and mud and rockslides can be triggered by the heavy rainfall events that are typical during monsoon season.Weather forecasts call for additional precipitation in the coming days. The soils in and around the monument are saturated at this time. Conditions can change rapidly and it is best to contact the Chiricahua NM visitor center at 520-824-3560, ext. 0 for the most-up-to-date information or visit www.nps.gov/chir.
Chiricahua National Monument is located four miles east of the junction of Arizona Highways 186 and 181. No food or gasoline is available at the monument.