Class 29 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.
It is an odd feeling to be at a loss for words, especially for someone as outgoing and verbose as myself. Yet, that is the sensation I experienced for the majority of the hour and a half we were in the air. The only word that continually came to mind was “wow”. I found myself extremely overwhelmed at the serene beauty of the desert landscape that I have lived in and known my whole life. Seeing it from the bird’s eye perspective was a completely different experience, not to mention we had the fortune to fly a few hundred yards away from a bald eagle for a brief moment of our journey. The helicopter traveled across Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, onto the reservation and caught up with the Verde River which wound us northeast through the Sonoran Desert. We took in the sights of the mountains, hills and cactus and then all of a sudden this gorgeous blue body of water came into view. Below the deep blue water stood the silhouette of the first dam on our tour, Bartlett Dam. Our SRP pilot, John, did a fantastic job of maneuvering the helicopter so that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. We took our fill of photos with “ooh’s” and “ah’s” as the dam made its way into each passengers view before gliding up and over the sparkling surface of Bartlett Lake. The fisherman below stopped to wave as we made our way up the lake and back into the Verde River, en route to Horseshoe Dam.
Evidence of the increased rainfall Arizona has experienced this year cluttered the landscape. The green in the brush and trees that surrounded the shallow water of Horseshoe Lake served to enhance the picturesque views stretched in front of us. It was almost as if you could feel the energy of the thriving wildlife just below our hovering craft. As we departed the Verde River and made our way northeast once again, the mountains grew taller and the saguaro cactus faded into miles of mature trees. I really cannot say enough about our wonderful pilot, John, who took the time to track down the trail of a waterfall as we trekked on towards Roosevelt Lake. A waterfall in the desert is certainly a rarity, this particular set of falls did not disappoint. Shortly after we departed the mystery falls, we found the mighty Salt River and followed it south until it reached the north end of Roosevelt Lake. To my recollection I had never seen Roosevelt Lake prior to this point, I was impressed. I recall thinking “that nice woman with the power point slides did tell us this thing holds about 1.6 million acre-feet, I guess this is what 1.6 million acre-feet looks like!” Overwhelmed. Again. Even more so after crossing the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, taking our photos and dropping down into the river and following the Apache Trail the short distance into Apache Lake. “There was ALL that water 3 minutes ago, and here we are again at ANOTHER lake?!” Impressive. At the southwest end of Apache Lake, near the damn, John trained our eyes to find a set of cliff dwellings about halfway up the canyon wall that held Native American ruins. It must have been quite some time before us that this group visited because there was simply no way to reach the mouths of the caves at present. After crossing over the top of Horse Mesa Dam and marveling at yet another feat of hydro-electric power, John spun us around to get a 360 degree view of a bald eagle’s nest tucked up in the cliffs alongside the river.
At this point in the tour the distances between dams became much shorter and we reached the Mormon Flat Dam after flying over Canyon Lake for just a few minutes. The progression of the river and dam system flowing down from lake to lake reminded me of a complex system of steps, descending from largest to smallest. The beauty of Mormon Flat Dam and subsequently Stewart Mountain Dam, enclosing Saguaro Lake, were framed by the terrain that surrounds them. The distinct vision when I looked out on the horizon from these beautiful lakes was of Four Peaks and how prominent the mountain stood just in the distance. Before I knew it the deep blue water had dissolved beneath us into a narrow river and became the Salt River once more. As always with anticipated journeys, the ride home was much quicker than the ride to our first destination. The return trip provided extensive views of the Tempe and Phoenix area as we approached our destination at the SRP facility. A landing as smooth as sitting down on the living room couch provided the perfect conclusion to an awe-inspiring journey.
On behalf of the whole group, I would like to thank SRP as well as our pilot, Mr. John Knotts for the exceptional experience that was truly a once in a lifetime gift. Thank you!