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Monday, June 2, 2014



Old box at Big Leroux Spring

There's big news at Big Leroux Spring. For the first time in more than a century, this important water source at the base of Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks has been freed from its 1930s-era concrete box. Well, partially, anyway. Having been diverted and capped for municipal drinking water for years, the spring box was reconfigured in June 2013 returning a portion of the flow to the surface. This is the first step in the restoration of the site's original wetland ecosystem and possible reintroduction of vanished native plant and animal species. Located at the head of Flagstaff's Rio de Flag watercourse, the sister springs of Big and Little Leroux have been an a critical resource for Native Americans, explorers and homesteaders. Named for Antoine Leroux, a prolific 19th century guide who assisted  the Sitgreaves Expedition and the journeys of Lt . Edward Beale (of Beale Wagon Road fame), ownership of the  springs area has changed hands numerous times over the years. It's currently owned by the U.S. Forest Service and used for firefighter operations and Hot Shot headquarters. 
With the goal of restoring the site to a healthy, self-sustaining  riparian environment, the woodlands around the springs have become an outdoor research area where ongoing data collection will aid in future conservation plans.  Restoration of the site is mostly a volunteer effort and although water flow varies with the seasons, a visit to the springs pays homage to the work of the Friends of the Rio de Flag, a local advocacy group toiling to preserve the history and hydrology of  Flagstaff's watersheds.
Meadow near Little Leroux Spring

LENGTH:  2.6 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7520’ – 7600’

From Flagstaff, travel north on US180 to Snowbowl Road (FR 516) at milepost 223.
Turn right and go 1 mile to where FR 516 makes an abrupt right turn with an unmarked dirt road straight ahead.  Park along this road in front of a gate which marks the beginning of the hike.
From the trailhead, pass the gate using the wood stairs and hike 0.3 mile to a fork.  Go left here and continue to a second fork where you'll turn right.  At the third fork, go left for Big Leroux or right for Little Leroux.
Rain gauge near Hot Shot headquarters
Friends of the Rio de Flag
Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience

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