Chiricahua National Monument’s Bonita Canyon Drive, Campground Remain Closed

Sunday, July 28 2013 17:06   Arizona
The upper portion of Bonita Canyon Drive and the Bonita Canyon Campground in Chiricahua National Monument (NM) located 120 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona remain closed due to flooding from heavy rains that passed through the area on July 23, 2013.

Rangers said on July 28 that both Bonita Canyon Drive and the campground might reopen on July 30, but much cleanup work has yet to be done. Persons interested in visiting or camping should call first.

chiricahua_bridgeNearly three inches of rain fell in parts of the monument in the evening hours. The heaviest rains occurred between 7 and 8 p.m. and the monument was closed around 8:30 p.m.

The entire Bonita Canyon Drive was closed overnight but the lower portion reopened July 25 after crews were able to assess the damages and clean up debris. Significant mud and debris flow, rockslides, downed trees, and damage to the roadbed has 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 instituted pre-emptive closures two weeks ago for the campsites most at risk for flooding, rangers saidd.

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 in the campground. Water was nearly up to the top of toilet bowls, one park official said.

Chiricahua NM is open to visitors. The lower portion of Bonita Canyon Drive is open and features 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.

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

Chiricahua National Monument is located four miles east of  the junction of Arizona Highways 186 and 181. No food or gasoline is available at the monument.


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