Bisbee Falls

This has been a rainy monsoon season here in Bisbee. One thunderstorm after another! People here are just giddy with delight. We’re in the fifteenth year of drought conditions, and these rains have been unexpected gifts from the fickle Southwest sky gods.

I have been seeing some impressive images on the “Cochise County And Its Wonders” Facebook group, photos of an impressive waterfall cascading down the granite slopes of what looked like Juniper Flats. The people who posted the photos called the site “Bisbee Falls”. I’ve intermittently been in and around Bisbee for a couple of years now, and I’ve never heard “Bisbee Falls” mentioned. It occurs to me now that there are no falls without rain, and the “Falls” aren’t talked about if they don’t exist!

Early Wednesday morning I heard from a friend, Maggie. She told me her young son Finner really wanted to go see the Falls. Evidently he had seen the same Facebook photos I had seen!

This happened to be an ideal morning for an excursion — cool, sunny, and calm. Before long I had parked my truck in a pull-off opposite Juniper Flats, the massive granite eminence which is part of Bisbee’s northern boundary.

At the base of Juniper Flats we could see a trail angling across the steep slope. Maggie had heard that this had been a mule trail at one time. But how to get to it?

The three of us crossed Highway 80, headed up a brushy slope and then slithered beneath a barb-wire fence. We found the trail, which had been built up on the downhill side with roughly laid chunks of granite.

The trail switched back and forth and led us through verdant glens and coves, such a welcome sight after the parched early summer months. Before we came close to the falls we could see sheets of water flowing over the granite, forming innumerable rivulets and pooling in small fern-lined cavities in the rock. Occasionally dramatic granite outcrops would be silhouetted against a flawless, clear, and deep blue sky:


Finner is a hardy and curious little guy and sometimes as difficult to photograph as a young dog. I managed to get a quick shot of him running down the path:


Finner saw the falls first. He stopped as we rounded a bend in the trail and said “Look at that!”


Such a dramatic sight! The contrast of the rippling sheets of water spilling over the edge of the top of Juniper Flats was a joy to behold.


Off to the side of the main falls water was flowing in sheets over the granite rather than falling. The stone was stained with “desert varnish”, evidence of rains which have deposited minerals over the past few millennia.


Small waterfalls diverged from the main flow and collected in pools surrounded by monsoon-stimulated vegetation:


The path ended at a pool surrounded by jumbled chunks and boulders which have been spalling off the main massif ever since the uplift which created Juniper Flats. Witnessing such geological scenes puts the brief human history of this region in perspective. These rocks will be periodically inundated long after the human race has perished, most likely in its own waste.

After we had been enjoying the scene for an hour or so two more hikers appeared and sat down on the rocks with us: two women, each with a dog. The dogs were happy and well-behaved, a basset hound and a pit bull mix with intriguing markings.


We had some interesting conversation as Finner and the dogs clambered around the rocks.


All four of the adults were taking photos and videos from time to time. A few more of mine:


Such a sight to see! Two agaves which were rooted in crevices in the granite, stoically enduring moisture they certainly didn’t need. This too shall pass, remarks one to the other:



The property belongs to the Nature Conservancy, but it isn’t marked with signs or described anywhere on the web, as far as I’ve been able to tell. The trail to the falls is known to many Bisbee residents, and as we walked back to the truck we encountered other hikers out to enjoy the fine weather and remarkable sights.


5 comments on “Bisbee Falls

  1. bev says:

    Nice account and such beautiful photos! So neat to see this ephemeral waterfall in such a dry region!

  2. Rain Trueax says:

    fantastic. I have enjoyed some of the falls around Tucson and often it’s similar for when they are there or not.

  3. Larry Ayers says:

    Thanks, Rain!

  4. Maggie says:

    These are some really great shots! Finner had a great idea!

  5. Joan says:

    Well, these shots are just astoundingly beautiful, Larry. Maybe they have been photographed before, but I would never have seen them, and none of the photographs prior would ever have had talking Agave bushes.

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