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Bumble Bee & Black Canyon
Yavapai County - ARIZONA

The elevation steadily rises as one drives north from Phoenix along I-17 towards Flagstaff. Black Canyon Creek cuts down between the Bradshaw Mountains and Prescott to the west and the Verde Rim to the east. The terrain is rugged and beautiful as the saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert gradually give way to chaparral and finally grassland and juniper-oak woodlands. At Bumble Bee the Sonoran Desert and Interior Chaparral habitats are intermingled along riparian streams and steep rocky canyons. Freeway access to this area affords nature lovers a quick escape from the mega-city to the south.

Directions: Drive north from Phoenix on I-17 past New River and Black Canyon City. Exit 248 "Crown King" and turn west (only direction possible.) following signs to Crown King which is a small vacation hamllet high in the Bradshaw Mountains. After just a kilometer or so the pavement ends and the Crown King Road joins Black Canyon City Road. There are numerous access points to the desert and riparian streams north and south from this point as outlined in the Google Map. The gravel road can be followed up to Crown King and hence to the Prescott area, but travel is slow and a high clearance vehicle is recommended.

The Arizona Dept. of Transportation is actively studying proposals to reroute I-17 through Bumble Bee and Black Canyon. This would severally impact the desert habitat and recreational opportunities. Please support Route D. More information: Save Bumble Bee.

riparian habitat along Black Canyon near Bumble Bee, Arizona. photo by Mike Plagens

For most of the year water can be found trickling along Black Canyon Creek and its tributaries. Occasionally all above-ground water will dry up. Following a thunderstorm the area can be quickly innundated by flash floods as evidenced by the smooth boulders scoured by pummeled sand and pebbles. Some grass species are visible in this photo: Rabbitfoot Grass (Polypogon monspeliensis)(left of center) and Foxtail Barley (Hordeum jubatum)(right). At center behind the two boulders is a Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens).

Common Raven, Corvus corax, photo © by Robert Shantz

Common Raven photograph by Robert Shantz in Burro Mountains, Grant County, New Mexico, USA. 21 November 2004.

Map of Bumble Bee and Vicinity

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Directions: Drive north from Phoenix and exit at # 248.

Common Birds

Photo © by unk. contributor

Along stretches of Black Canyon Creek that are broad and cobbly Killdeer will nest and rear their young. Lucky the large stones deter off road vehicles from these spots otherwise the eggs, which are layed on the ground, would be crushed. Upon approach killdeer will feign injury while producing their plaintiff wail and lure the predator or curious human away from their nest location.

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Common Woody Plants

Notice that Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) is not listed. This zone is in transition to chaparral thus other woody shrubs displace creosote bush. This is especially so if there has been range fire - common in chaparral - because creosote bush is not fire adapted. If creosote bush is found in this area it will be on the driest, most exposed locations.

Cacti & Succulents


Field Trip: 08 June 2008

By early June hiking in the Sonoran Desert can be difficult as temperatures frequently climb well above 40°C. Normally such excessive heat is not attained until afternoon so the experienced naturalist makes his treck late evening or early morning. In deed this is the most active time for animals and blooming flowers. I heard cicadas for the first time this year ... probably a species other than the familiar Apache Cicada (Diceroprocta apache) which tends to emerge later in the season. Capturing wary cicadas for identification is quite a challenge: they see well and often perch up a tree. Insects were plentiful on shrubs and trees including the Striped Willow Flea Beetle (Disonycha alternata) on Goodding's Willow. On Seep Bacharis I photographed a curious-looking bug that was later identified as a member of the small family Kinariidae: Seep Willow Plant Hopper (Oeclidius sp.).

Fourty centimeter diameter piles of freshly piled sand along the banks of the washes indicated Pocket Gopher activity.

Moisture left over from the earlier wet spring allowed me to tally at least 36 species of wild flowers still in bloom.

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Yellow Flowers

  1. Desert Trumpet -- Eriogonum inflatum
  2. Malta Star Thistle -- Centaurea melitensis
  3. Velvet Mesquite -- Prosopis velutina
  4. California Sundrop -- Camissonia californica
  5. Sand Wash Groundsel -- Senecio flaccidus
  6. Catclaw Acacia -- Acacia greggii
  7. Foothills Palo Verde -- Parkinsonia microphylla
  8. Yellow Sweet Clover -- Melilotus indicus
  9. Foothill Deervetch -- Lotus humistratus

Orange Flowers

  1. Orange Fiddleneck -- Amsinckia intermedia

Red Flowers

  1. Ocotillo;Coachwhip -- Fouquieria splendens
  2. Red Brome Grass -- Bromus rubens

Pink Flowers

  1. Centaury -- Centaurium calycosum

Purple + Lavender Flowers

  1. Desert Lavender -- Hyptis emoryi
  2. Seaside Petunia -- Calibrachoa parviflora
  3. California Loosestrife -- Lythrum californicum
  4. Violet Snapdragon -- Sairocarpus nuttallianus
  5. Wire Lettuce -- Stephanomeria pauciflora

Blue Flowers

  1. Lupine -- Lupinus sparsiflorus
  2. Water Speedwell -- Veronica anagallis-aquatica

White Flowers

  1. Cryptantha -- Cryptantha (several spp.)
  2. Watercress -- Nasturtium oficinale
  3. Dodder -- Cuscuta sp.)
  4. Prickly Poppy -- Argemone spp.

Greenish Flowers

  1. Canyon Ragweed -- Ambrosia ambrosioides
  2. Brittle Spine Flower -- Chorizanthe brevicornu
  3. Wild Oats -- Avena fatua
  4. Burstwort -- Herniaria cinerea
  5. Bermuda Grass -- Cynodon dactylon
  6. Lamb's Quarters -- Chenopodium album

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Butterflies -- obs. 8 June 2008

Leilia Hackberry Butterfly

Leilia Hackberry Butterfly



Southern Dogface

Southern Dogface

Marine Blue

Marine Blue

Checkered White

Checkered White

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

Hackberry Butterfly, Queen, Marine Blue, Checkered White, Pipevine Swallowtail, Dog Face Sulfur, and Buckeye.

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