Litter Can Hinder Freeway Drainage Systems During Monsoon, ADOT Says

Joseph Kolasinski | Phoenix

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

As it prepares for monsoon storms, the Arizona Department of Transportation is asking motorists and their passengers not to toss litter along highways. Why? Because the trash can block drainage grates or wind up in the nearly 60 pump stations that ADOT operates along Phoenix-area freeways.

Pump stations are designed to remove large volumes of water from freeways during storms, with individual pumps able to lift more than 12,000 gallons per minute. They are part of a vast and largely unseen drainage system that can keep freeways open during storms that overwhelm local streets nearby.

Pump stations typically have three to five pumps, driven by powerful engines, to lift storm water from inside the facilities and send it into nearby drainage channels or retention basins.

Motorists can help keep ADOT’s drainage systems operating at full capacity by helping to reduce litter and other debris that can obstruct drainage grates and catch basins that collect runoff, leading to standing water along a freeway.

Another way you can help: Report those you see littering on highways to the ADOT Litter Hotline. All that’s required is providing the vehicle’s license plate number and incident details by calling 1.877.3LITTER or visiting The owner will get a letter noting that someone was reported tossing trash from the vehicle, along with a free litter bag.

ADOT works to clear litter and other debris from pump stations and freeway drainage systems all year long. Piles of litter often have to be collected by hand and hauled out of pump station storage wells. Crews or contractors also use specialized vehicles to vacuum drainage pipes that lead to pump stations.

ADOT technicians also work year round to maintain pump stations and their engines, since storms and runoff are not limited to the summer months.

As monsoon season approaches, ADOT keeps an eye on weather forecasts to prepare for challenges associated with runoff. Localized storms that drop more than 2 inches of rain in an hour can tax any drainage system.

When litter and trash are clogging the system, and water starts to build in travel lanes, ADOT maintenance crews are called away from other duties to deal with blockages. That’s another reason to think before you toss that cup or can out a car window.

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, June 1966

From the issue: "'Rugged Vista From Schnebly Hill' by Darwin Van Campen. ... Whether viewed from High on Schnebly Hill ... or from the floor of the Canyon itself, the colorful, intimate beauty of the Oak Creek country cannot fail to impress even the most scenically sophisticated of viewers."

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Flagstaff Museum Receives National Honor for Hispanic Exhibit

Courtesy of Pioneer Museum (via Facebook)

The Arizona Historical Society's Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff has been honored by a national organization for an exhibit that explores the contributions Hispanic people have made to Northern Arizona's history.

The American Association for State and Local History awarded the AHS an Award of Merit in its annual Leadership in History Awards, the Arizona organization announced in a news release last week. The award was tied to "Todos Unidos: The Hispanic Experience in Flagstaff," a temporary exhibit at the Pioneer Museum.

The Historical Society says the exhibit "recognizes the countless contributions people of Mexican, Spanish and Basque descent have made to Northern Arizona through their labor, their traditions and their community service."

The group will receive the award at the national organization's annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, in September.

The Arizona Historical Society was founded by the Territorial Legislature in 1864, making it Arizona's oldest cultural organization. It operates museums and research facilities in Flagstaff, Tempe, Tucson and Yuma.

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From a Reader: Native American Trucker

Hikelust | U.S. Route 163

As longtime Arizona Highways readers know, we used to publish reader-submitted poetry in the magazine. We no longer do so, but we still receive occasional submissions from readers. One of them, Paul L. Prough of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, submitted this one. We hope you enjoy it.

Native American Trucker
By Paul L. Prough

Eight-teen wheels drove down the road
carrying a great big heavy load;
with lots of lights in front and back
and a sign on its door that read Applejack.

The man behind the wheel that day
had a nice little home in Santa Fe.
He drove long distance back and forth,
sometimes south and sometimes north.

He started driving at age forty-two
and drove his truck like a buckaroo.
He had a wife and a son to support
and always liked being at his own homeport.

He had been in the Service for twenty good years
and learned his trade with the Corps of Engineers.
He once saved his squad and called a hero
and was proud of his heritage as a true Navajo.

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Exit Is Closed, but Seligman Is Open for Business

Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

Access to one of Historic Route 66's most iconic towns will be limited for nearly a year while bridges along Interstate 40 are improved.

With that in mind, the Arizona Department of Transportation is working with the town of Seligman to ensure Northern Arizona travelers know they still can reach the Snow-Cap Drive-In and other attractions in town.

Exit 121, which takes drivers from I-40 to the west side of Seligman, closed earlier this month so decks on three bridges could be replaced. The bridges are between 40 and 50 years old, ADOT said in a news release, and the 10-month construction project will provide a smoother ride for Seligman visitors.

Exit 123, which leads to Seligman's east side, will remain open while the $4.3 million project is underway, ADOT said. From there, visitors can easily reach the Snow-Cap, Westside Lilo's Café and Angel Delgadillo's barbershop, along with other Seligman destinations. Signs on I-40 will direct travelers to Exit 123 during the project, ADOT said.

Seligman also makes an excellent starting point for a trip down Route 66 to Kingman. That scenic drive passes Grand Canyon Caverns, one of Arizona's best-known cave systems.

To learn more about the project, visit ADOT's projects website.

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, June 1945

From the issue: "Typically American is our cover scene — a barefoot boy fishing from a rocky ledge in the cool solitude of a clear mountain stream, hands gripping a crooked improvised fishing pole, attention riveted on the bobber of his line, a can of worms conveniently at his side, and his patient, faithful dog to keep him company as he enjoys the thrills of the great out-of-doors. Chuck Abbott has truly caught the Spirit of Young America in this delightful scene."

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Traveling Exhibit Explores Past, Present and Future of Water

Bisbee, whose water history is tied to the Lavender Pit Mine, is the first stop for a traveling exhibit about the importance of water. | Gloria Delia Reyes

A Smithsonian exhibit making its way around the state aims to help people understand water's environmental and cultural importance in Arizona and elsewhere.

Water/Ways, a project by the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street, is visiting 12 rural communities in Arizona from now until March 2020. Its first stop is at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, where it'll be until July 15. Future stops include Miami, Sierra Vista, Page and Lake Havasu City.

Each stop on the Water/Ways tour has a "complex and unique" water story, organizers said in a news release. In Bisbee, for example, copper smelters depleted the groundwater supply, causing wells to go dry. And Lake Havasu City is best known for its historic London Bridge, but Lake Havasu itself supplies billions of gallons of water per day to Arizona and California destinations.

All Water/Ways programs and events are free and open to the public, organizers said, and all ages are welcome. The project is supported by Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University.

For a complete list of Water/Ways events, visit the project's website.

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Saguaro National Park's 'Best Sunsets' Claim Starts Instagram Fight

Maribeth Brady | Saguaro National Park

A good-natured battle erupted recently on social media — and the Tucson area's Saguaro National Park was at the center of it.

As National Geographic reported, the park posted a photo of one of its gorgeous sunsets on Instagram, then asked its 70,000 or so fans if they knew the park has "the best sunsets in the world." That spurred a skeptical comment from Joshua Tree National Park, just across the state line in Southern California, and after some ribbing back and forth, the parks agreed to a "sunset-off."

Since then, they've traded several spectacular sunset photos using the hashtag #parksunsetwars. Park visitors have joined the fun, and so have other National Park Service sites, including Death Valley National Park in California and our own Grand Canyon National Park.

The "war" seems to have died down now, without a clear victor. We're biased, but we think it's hard to beat a sunset at any of Arizona's national parks.

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Buy a State Parks Pass, Get an Arizona Highways Subscription Free

Catalina State Park, near Tucson, is one of the jewels of the Arizona State Parks and Trails system. | David Dawson

Visitors who buy an annual pass to Arizona's state parks will now get an added bonus: a free subscription to Arizona Highways.

Starting this month, the magazine is partnering with Arizona State Parks and Trails to offer a free one-year subscription to those who buy either a standard or a premium annual pass.

"This is part of an amazing partnership we have with Arizona Highways," said Sue Black, executive director of the parks department, in a news release. "When you visit the parks, you see the rich diversity of the state, and when you read the magazine, you can experience even more of what makes Arizona truly special."

A standard annual pass costs $75, plus a $7 handling fee, and covers day use at all state parks, except weekends and state holidays during peak season at a handful of the most popular parks. A premium pass costs $200, plus the $7 fee, and allows access to any park on any day of the year. Both passes allow entry for up to four people in one vehicle.

The free subscription will be available everywhere passes are sold. For more information about the passes, click here.

Among the highlights of Arizona's state park system are Kartchner Caverns State Park, which features a spectacular network of limestone caves; Oracle State Park, whose 15-mile trail network is now open every day of the week; and Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state. For a full list of state parks, click here.

"There is such natural synergy between Arizona Highways magazine and Arizona State Parks and Trails," said Win Holden, publisher of the magazine. "When circumstances prevent an in-person visit to a state park, you can still get a healthy dose of spectacular landscape photography and the state’s best hiking and scenic drives inside the magazine each month."

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