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Rackensack Canyon to Lower Camp Creek

Rackensack Canyon and Camp Creek is a stretch of riparian habitat located a short distance northeast of Carefree, Arizona. Rackensack Wash crosses the Seven Springs Road (FR-24) about 8 km north of the Bartlet Dam Road turnoff. The vegetation adjacent to the wash and to Camp Creek is dominated by fire-adapted chaparral scrub, but there are also saguaro cactus and other elements typical of Upland Sonoran Desert Scrub. This is a transition area between the two major vegetation types. In 2005 an extensive fire, the Cave Creek Complex Fire, burned much of the area on either side of Cave Creek Road - an event that will tend to perpetuate chaparral.

Motor vehicle access to upper Camp Creek is limited to lease holders in the cottage enclave along the wooded creek. Foot access along Rackensack Canyon from Seven Springs Road is easy and offers several kilometers up and down canyon to explore. Upper Camp Creek is a gallery riparian woods dominated by willows, cottonwoods and sycamores. It is a haven for birds, especially during spring and fall migration. Lower Camp Creek crosses the Bartlet Dam Road (NF-205). Areas north of NF-205 has been made off-limits to motor vehicles in order to allow the burned areas a chance to revegetate. A metal fence across the dry wash at this point has a foot-access through it allowing hiking up the wash. Down stream from Bartlet Dam Road, Camp Creek has been given over to ORV's and has become highly eroded. Blue Mountain is a prominent summit just east of the Camp Creek - Bartlet Dam Road crossing.

Map of Rackensack and Camp Creek, Maricopa Co., Arizona

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Shrubs and Trees

Common species listed first:

  1. Catclaw Acacia -- Acacia greggii
  2. Burrobrush -- Hymenoclea salsola
  3. Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
  4. Sugar Berry -- Rhus ovata
  5. Red Willow -- Salix laevigata
  6. Fremont Cottonwood -- Populus fremontii
  7. Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana trigonophylla)
  8. Netleaf Hackberry -- Celtis laevigata reticulata
  9. Chaparral Honeysuckle (Lonicera interrupta)
  10. Canyon Grape -- Vitis arizonica
  11. Velvet Ash -- Fraxinus velutina
  12. Scrub Live Oak -- Quercus turbinella
  13. Arizona Sycamore -- Platanus wrightii
  14. Bigroot -- Marah gilensis
  15. Desert Rock Pea -- Lotus rigidus
  16. Red-berry Barberry -- Mahonia haematocarpa
  17. Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) -- Many large plants growing along the washes particularly in protected coves that escape the occasional scouring flood.
  18. Sand Wash Groundsel -- Senecio flaccidus
  19. Ragged Rock Flower -- Crossosoma bigelovii
  20. Desert Honeysuckle -- Anisacanthus thurberi
  21. Western Soapberry -- Sapindus saponaria
  22. Holly-leaf Buckthorn -- Rhamnus crocea
  23. Desert Straw -- Stephanomeria pauciflora
  24. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) -- on ridges and more abundant downstream towards the Verde.
  25. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) --
  26. Golden Eye (Viguiera deltoidea) -- fairly common on rocky slopes.
  27. Desert Senna -- Senna covesii
  28. Desert Willow -- Chilopsis linearis
  29. Jojoba -- Simmondsia chinensis
  30. Milkweed Vine -- Funastrum cyanchoides
  31. Nightshade -- Solanum douglasii
  32. Hop Tree -- Ptelea trifoliata
  33. Snapdragon Vine -- Maurandella antirrhiniflora
  34. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa)
  35. Wolfberry (Lycium spp.) -- several species that are hard to distinguish when not in flower/fruit.
  36. Canyon Ragweed -- Ambrosia ambrosioides
  37. Seep Baccharis -- Baccharis salicifolia
  38. Woolly Bursage -- Ambrosia eriocentra
  39. Water Weed -- Baccharis sergiloides
  40. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum)
  41. Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) -
  42. Graythorn -- Ziziphus obtusifolia
  43. Sweet Bush -- Bebbia juncea
  44. San Felipe Marigold -- Adenophyllum porophylloides
  45. Turpentine Bush -- Ericameria laricifolia
  46. Canotia -- Canotia holacantha
  47. Blue Palo Verde -- Parkinsonia florida
  48. Foothills Palo Verde -- Parkinsonia microphylla
  49. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) --
  50. Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) - Large shrubs within washes.
  51. Wright Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii)
  52. Janusia (Janusia gracilis) - a twisty, viney plant.
  53. Goodding's Willow -- Salix gooddingii -- wet spots only
  54. Ragged Rock Flower -- Crossosoma bigelovii
  55. Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi)
  56. Bladder-Mallow -- Herissantia crispa
photo © Mike Plagens

Sugar Berry (Rhus ovata) is a plant that will benefit from the fire. It quickly re-establishes from underground roots. The leaves are shiny green. Photo taken May 2008 three years after the fire.

photo © Mike Plagens

Hop Tree (Ptelea trifoliata) is found on hillsides in Rackensack and also appears to be regrowing well following the fire.

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Cacti & Succulents

The cacti will generally be found on the terraces and rocky slopes, not directly in the sandy washes that are subjected to occasional flooding. Common species listed first:

  1. Buckhorn Cholla -- Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa
  2. Brown-spine Prickly Pear -- Opuntia phaeacantha
  3. Saguaro Cactus -- Carnegiea gigantea
  4. Banana Yucca -- Yucca baccata
  5. Soap Tree Yucca -- Yucca elata
  6. Desert Christmas Cactus -- Cylindropuntia leptocaulis
  7. Teddy Bear Cholla;Jumping Cholla -- Cylindropuntia bigelovii
  8. Engelmann Hedgehog Cactus -- Echinocereus engelmannii
Photo © by Michael Plagens

Desert Christmas Cactus often grows in the partial shade offered by palo verdes or mesquite.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009