Scenic drive and campground in Cochise County closed due to flooding | News
The upper portion of Bonita Canyon Drive and the Bonita Canyon Campground in Chiricahua National Monument (NM) is closed after flooding from heavy rains that passed through the area on Tuesday night.
Nearly three inches of rain fell in parts of the monument in the evening hours on July 23, with the heaviest rains occurring between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., closing the monument around 8:30 p.m.
The entire length of 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. Large portions of mud and debris flow, rockslides, downed trees, and damage to the roadbed have 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 implemented closures two weeks ago for 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. More than 18 inches of standing water, mud and silt made its way into the historic restroom building on the campground site.
Cleanup and repairs to the roadway and campground are estimated to take several days and the road and campground will remain closed until further notice.
Chiricahua National Monument is still open to visitors, with the lower portion of Bonita Canyon Drive remaining open. This portion of the Chiricahua NM has 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.
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