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With most Oak Creek Canyon campgrounds re-opening for the summer season in eight days, the Red Rock Ranger District is looking to prevent a popular campsite from crumbling into the creek.

Cave Springs Campground was stabilized in 1996 using a combination of rip-rap and grout, still visible on Tuesday, March 4. Coconino National Forest is seeking public comment on a proposal that would stabilize a section of Oak Creek and restore the bank to a more natural configuration.

A section of bank beneath the access road to Cave Springs Campground, on the banks of upper Oak Creek halfway up the canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff, is being undercut by the creek. If not stabilized, it will eventually collapse, according to a district hydrologist and a U.S. Forest Service release.

“A whole bunch of cement and rocks grouted together, because we were getting some flood loss, doesn’t really work,” district hydrologist Amina Sena said. “The hardened bank has been undercut and is about to fail.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency, and the USFS originally stabilized the bank in 1996, after two high-water flood seasons in 1993 and 1995 ate away at it. A combination of grout, stones and concrete was thrown together to harden the bank and prevent further erosion. The solution has not turned out to be a permanent one, Sena said.

“By hardening [the bank], the water is actually running faster,” she said. “Rebar has been exposed. The Forest Service has been tracking the failure of this project for the last 10 years.”

Through Thursday, May 1, the district is accepting public comment on a more natural stabilization proposal that would realign Oak Creek. At Cave Springs, the creek is currently divided by an island of boulders and other stones into two distinct channels, with the main flow running into the weakening bank.

“The stream, as it is, is unstable,” she said. “Now we’re going in and using natural channel design approaches to re-contour the stream flow and make it stable.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, March 19, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.


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