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Best Bet For Perennial Water
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Best Bet For Perennial Water

Seven Falls
Sabino Canyon

READERS' PICK: Perennial is in the eye of the beholder, and the finest place to behold its aquatic incarnation is Seven Falls. Caveat: There are times of the year when you might want to pack a mirage or hallucination if you're going to make the trek to this not-so-perennial cascade. According to the public information folks at Sabino Canyon, the falls traditionally go dry in June and July, after which they're resurrected by the monsoon season. Another dry spell follows in late autumn. Best time to visit: Late February and March, when the snow melt off Mount Lemmon brings the spectacular falls to a steady roar.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Tucked away on a little side street off Tanque Verde Road, Agua Caliente County Park is an unexpected desert oasis. Built on the site of an old ciénega and Territorial ranch, the 111-acre park boasts three smallish lakes, groves of tall palm trees, lush waterside vegetation, mesquite bosques, and plenty of picnic tables and outdoor grills, all in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Best of all, no one ever seems to go there, especially during the week, which makes Agua Caliente a fine place for meditating with the ducks and getting a respite from the big city that begins just a few hundred feet away.

CLUE IN: The Romero Pools are no secret, but they are a local treasure without the crowds of Sabino Canyon. Take Oracle Road north to Catalina State Park, pay your dough ($1 to $4) and park at the trailhead at the end of the road. Take plenty of water. Follow the Romero Trail signs on a moderate three-mile hike (that's six miles round trip) up and then down to Romero Pools. They're wet and wonderful year-round, with several pools waiting--from the big one with the rope swing (and probably some people) to smaller ones along the creek offering solitude and plenty of places to dangle your feet with the fishes. We've never seen Romero Pools completely dry, and that's a rare and delightful thing in our beautiful desert. If you can walk to Seven Falls, you can walk to Romero Pools, and you'll appreciate the water even more when you get there.

CLUE IN: Hiking through Cienega Creek is like going back in time, before we screwed up the watershed in the Tucson basin with cows, paved streets and unsustainable levels of groundwater pumping. Giant cottonwood trees line the banks like columns from a Grecian temple. A thick, mesquite canopy forms a shady green outline to the river on either side. Gila top-minnows and other riparian critters make use of the lush habitat. Even a boot-eating kind of quicksand can be found here. A joint effort between Pima County Parks and Recreation and Pima County Flood Control set this area aside as insurance against both flooding and urban insanity. It's a relatively small area, but it holds a big idea: that maybe it's in all our interests to keep and expand our natural waterways. It's good for flood control. It's good for wildlife. It's good for recreation. It's good for the soul. A permit is required to enter the area. Contact Pima County Parks and Recreation at 740-2690; or write 1204 W. Silverlake Road, Tucson, AZ 85713.

CLUE IN: Welcome to the desert! All these pools and seeps and streams may or may not deliver year 'round. So if you want guaranteed water, we suggest you either move to Seattle or get to know your city and county pools. (See also: Best Cheap Chill, page 111.) Archer Pool, 1665 S. La Cholla Blvd., is one of our favorites because of its location out in the desert west of the Santa Cruz River. From the pool deck, you have a view of cactus and ocotillo and mesquite and blue desert sky. You can't forget you're in the desert here. And rumor has it that by summer of 1999, Archer will have a waterslide.

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