Desert Flash Flooding in Anza-Borrego & Beyond

Friday, January 1, 2016 - 7:30pm to Saturday, January 2, 2016 - 3:00pm


Desert Flash Flooding in Anza-Borrego & Beyond

January 1-2, 2016


Dr. Warren Campbell, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Western Kentucky University

Paul Johnson, retired Park Naturalist and professional photographer

Flash floods have the ability to completely rework a landscape. With lecturer Dr. Warren Campbell and field instructor Paul Johnson, this course will explore the science behind flash flooding in southwestern deserts and examine a few specific events that have taken place in ABDSP.

Friday evening’s lecture will discuss concepts including: why alluvial fans pose a special flood hazard; the Archimedes principle and debris flows; debris flows versus floods—when do each occur?; protecting against alluvial fan floods using debris basins; and what in the world is a 100-year flood?

Dr. Campbell will also look at flood maps for Borrego Springs to uncover what the flood zones mean, discuss how the design, construction and maintenance of debris basins are funded, and explore whether flood insurance might encourage risky decisions.

The Saturday field class with retired Park Naturalist Paul Johnson will include four stops to view evidence and features of two major flash floods (one of which began life as a spectacular debris flow) that have occurred in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the past 12 years. 

The first hike provides a view of damage done during the flood of 2004 to the only debris basin in the Borrego Valley. See the remains of a huge rock flow which occurred during the flood of 2013. On the second hike, the longest of the day, ascend Borrego Palm Canyon to view flood-buried campsites, deep erosion as well as over flowing of previous flood channels, and hard-to-believe damage to what used to be the largest population of California fan palms in Anza-Borrego – all occurring during the flood of 2004. The final hike of the day will follow a portion of the 2013 flood which made significant changes in the drainage pattern of Glorieta Canyon in the south west corner of the Borrego Valley. If time permits a brief visit will be made to several fascinating flood-control structures built in the early years of Borrego Springs.

Bring: lunch to be eaten along the way. Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots as the trail in Borrego Palm Canyon is quite rocky. January can be a wet, chilly and windy month, so please bring layers and a rain coat and hat. While four wheel drive vehicles are not typically required, it is possible that weather events during December may require a change to this itinerary. Participants will be notified if any changes are necessary. Total driving distance will be approximately 35 miles.

Hiking Required: There will be one hike of approximately 1.5 miles over loose sand and rocky terrain; and two shorter hikes of approximately ½ mile each over mostly sandy terrain.  

View Dr. Campbell's presentation.

Class Schedule and Pricing

Friday Lecture
7:30-9:00 p.m.
$5 at the door; open to the public 

Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center
401 Tilting T Drive
Borrego Springs
Saturday Field Class
9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
$60 - Public Rate (includes lecture)
$50 - ABF Member Rate (includes lecture)

ABF Office
587 Palm Canyon Drive #110
Borrego Springs