Cave Creek Canyon is an outstanding desert canyon in the foothills north of
Phoenix, Arizona. We did much exploring and photography here during the
spectacular wildflower season of spring, 2001.
The canyon is something of a rarity due to its perennial stream (flows year
round). This creates a lush riparian environment within the confines of the
streambed completely different from the open desert or even a dry streambed.
The riparian area includes trees not normally associated with the open
desert such as cottonwoods, willow, ash, hackberry. and even giant sycamores.
The numerous permanent pools support fish such as minnows and sunfish. Deeper
pools support larger fish, some more than six inches in length. One really
large pool is a popular swimming hole during the summer for area residents
in the know.
The steep-walled canyon is unusual in another way as well. It runs east to west
at an elevation of roughly 3,000 feet, where the desert starts
to give way to scrub and pinyon/juniper forests. This is known as the
This transition is manifest here quite strangely. North of the stream,
the warmer, south-facing slope is entirely Sonoran Desert, represented
by many varieties of cacti and desert shrubs as well as beautiful desert
wildflowers (during the season). South of the stream, the cooler,
north-facing slope is entirely transitional, represented by scrub oak,
small junipers and pinyons with almost no wildflowers.
The more open nature of the desert environment is more conducive to large
patches of wildflowers. Hence virtually all of our beautiful wildflower
photos come from the north slope of the canyon. One exception is the beautiful
Indian paintbrush (left) which is normally associated with higher non-desert elevations.
The steep north slope of the canyon, dotted with stately saguaro cacti and
photogenic prickley pears as well as huge carpets of poppies during the spring
of 2001, offered spectacular photo opportunities.