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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wildflower wetlands

Flagstaff Urban Trail System

Rio de Flag

Last weekend in Flagstaff, the morning air had a telling, damp crispness to it.  Shorter days and cooler temperatures mean the summer wildflower season is winding down. But, in the moist corridor of Rio de Flag, high country flora will be blooming through late September.  Sinclair Wash Trail, which begins at Fort Tuthill Park and ends at the Arizona Trail off Route 66, is a major artery of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS).  Winding through a diverse mix of terrain and connecting with 8 other trails, the floral sweet spot of this wide, mostly flat trail is the wetland area near Sawmill County Park. A short but steep descent from the playground drops hikers in the middle of Rio de Flag---a waterway created as part of the town's water reclamation program. The mile-long segment follows the stream through a limestone canyon festooned with oak archways and climbing vines. Where the trail approaches the I40 underpass, a cattail-choked marsh fosters a plethora of plant and animal life.  Here, the late summer wildflower checklist includes: globemallow, wild chrysanthemum, sunflowers, clovers, wild geranium, Red-osier dogwood, coneflowers, aquatic buttercups, New Mexican vervain and alfalfa.


LENGTH: 5.7 miles one way. 2 miles roundtrip for the Rio de Flag section only.
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6805'- 6988"
Sawmill County Park (short hike):
In Flagstaff, go east on Butler Ave to Lone Tree, turn right, continue to Sawmill Road on the left and follow the signs to the park.
Fort Tuthill County Park (long hike):
From I17 south of Flagstaff, take exit 337 for AZ89A and "county fairgrounds". At the end of the off ramp, continue straight into Ft. Tuthill Park and follow the signs to trailhead parking.
Prairie coneflower
INFO: City of Flagstaff

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