Located in the mountains of Central Arizona, the Upper Granite Creek Watershed is approximately 36,000 acres or 56.25 square miles in size; elevations range from 5,000 to 7,110 feet. Surrounded by amazing views wherever you turn – the Granite Dells, the Butte, and Granite Mountain ñ surround this town, many people in Prescott are here for the beauty and the diversity. The watershed includes forestland, urban development, and grasslands. This unique variety, gives the area its magnificence, and makes it more of a challenge to manage.
Unlike many other cities in the semi-arid Southwest, Prescott has eight creeks winding their way through town. These cool, shady greenways are a haven to humans and wildlife. Water runs through the creeks seasonally and nearly everyone in town lives, works, or plays near the waterways. In a growing urban area, with a current population of approximately 40,000, the creeks and riparian areas spread throughout the area and give everyone a connection to nature.
Although it is a relatively small watershed, these creeks in the Upper Granite Creek Watershed are especially important, as they are headwaters of the Verde River, one of the most important water systems in Arizona. With a beautiful, diverse, nearly intact habitat, the Verde River has the distinction of being the only federally designated Wild and Scenic river in Arizona.
The Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is a 125-acre flood plain and the last remaining portion of what was once a 1,000-acre riparian (streamside) forest of cottonwood and willow trees. The Arizona Riparian Council estimates 90 percent or more of Arizona’s original riparian habitat has been lost or severely degraded since the early 1800s. With 75 percent of Arizona’s wildlife depending on healthy riparian areas, one comes to realize what a significant loss this is and how important it is to preserve and restore these areas. A small cadre of local watershed organizations, led by Prescott Creeks, has put uncountable hours into monitoring, mapping, planning for and talking up this unique area. In addition to all the time spent actually returning this area of old gravel mines and effluent lines into the fabulous community space that it has become, a concerted effort is made to involve schools and other groups with projects in Watson Woods and other locales in the watershed, its special features, and why our flood plains and riparian habitat are so important. As the City of Prescott is quickly developing to the north and east, Watson Woods is tuning into a sort of oasis for wildlife and humans alike. In this quickly urbanizing region, the riparian preserve has set aside not only an important flood plain, but also a place where people can come to connect with nature.