Arizona Kite Aerial
Photography

J.S. and S.W. Aber

Table of contents
Introduction to Arizona Tucson, Greasewood Park
Tucson, J. Murrieta Park Prescott, Fain Lake
Coconino, National Forest References

Introduction

We have visited Arizona many times before, but our first KAP venture took place in February 2019 in connection with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (
TGMS). We spent about 10 days in Tucson, then headed north to visit friends in Prescott Valley for a few days. In 2020, we repeated the trip to Arizona for Tucson and Prescott Valley. Over more than two decades of KAP in many circumstances, we have found that deserts and mountains are generally difficult situations in which to conduct KAP, because of highly variable wind and the effects of high altitude. Arizona has both deserts and mountains.

Greasewood Park, Tucson (2019)

Tucson weather was generally not favorable for KAP. Temperature ranged from the 20s to 70s °F. Two storm systems moved through with rain, clouds, and windy conditions, while other days were nearly calm. Finally our last full day in Tucson had completely sunny sky and southeasterly wind of 5-10 mph. This is the minimum we need for successful KAP. With such light wind our full attention was focused on flying the kite. We selected our large rokkaku without a tail and used our new autoKAP rig—see Sony camera.

Greasewood Park is located in the northwestern portion of Tucson and is set aside as a natural desert park. Facilities are minimal beyond a small vehicle parking area, a few picnic tables, and numerous walking paths. Two ecozones are represented, namely the Palo Verde-Saguaro upland zone and the Sonoran Desert riparian zone. Anklam Wash is the principle drainage, although it is dry most of the time.

While in Tucson, we acquired a new cargo/tool box with large wheels and used it to transport our equipment along a concrete walking path to a picnic area close to Anklam Wash. We set up there in the late morning after determining that no sagauro cactus, cholla, or other obstacles were in the immediate vicinity. Ground elevation is approximately 2500 feet (~760 m). The southeasterly breeze carried the kite and camera up and out above Anklam Wash.

Greasewood Park
Aerial views
Overview toward the northeast (left) showing Anklam Wash in the left foreground and the Santa Catalina Mountains on the right skyline. Mt. Lemmon is the highest peak at ~9160 feet. View to southeast (right). Pima Community College appears in the right background.
Looking toward the southwest (left) showing Anklam Wash in the foreground. Closer view (right) with a "forest" of saguaro cactus. The green trees are palo verde. A walking path leads toward houses in the background.
Close-up shots of Anklam Wash. Picnic tables and a concrete walkway allow good access and resting places.
Parking area and main picnic shelter (left). Greasewood Road and Speedway Boulevard intersect in the left background. Close-up view (right) of saguaro, cholla, and other upland vegetation.
JSA (left) flying the kite from a picnic area. Line real is anchored to the grill post. Low-height view (right) of prickly pear cactus; note shadow of camera rig at top center.

Greasewood Park
Hazardous plants
Saguaro cactus (left) and barrel cactus (right).
Prickly pear cactus (left) and cholla (right).

Joaquin Murrieta Park, Tucson (2020)

Like Greasewook Park, Joaquin Murrieta Park (JMP) is located in the northern part of Tucson. Our flying site was approximately 8 miles from the nearest border of Tucson International Airport, well beyond the 5-mile limit required by the FAA. JMP is a traditional city park with playgrounds, picnic tables, and baseball fields. JMP is located on the alluvial plain of the Santa Cruz River, as is most of central Tucson. Elevation is approximately 2340 feet (~715 m). The dry drainage channel on the east side of JMP is Silvercroft Wash, which begins to the southwest near Starr Pass and empties into the Santa Cruz River north of the park.

Entrance sign (left) for Joaquin Murrieta Park and scoreboard (right) for the Western Little League ball field.

We arrived in the afternoon on Groundhog Day. It also happened to be Superbowl LIV, which was won later that evening by the Kansas City Chiefs. However, JMP is devoted to baseball, not football, as evidenced by numerous ball diamonds in the park. In particular, JMP hosts the
Western Little League, which has a record of numerous district and state chamionships.

Joaquin Murrieta Park
Aerial views
Left: view toward the northeast with the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background. Silvercroft Wash extends across the scene from the lower right corner. Right: looking eastward with Silvercroft Wash at bottom of scene.
Overview to southeast (left) toward downtown Tucson in the distance. Closer shot (right) showing the City of Tucson Trini Alvarez-El Rio Golf Course. The green fairways and greens contrast nicely with the tan-brown rough areas. The large white and blue building in lower right is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson, Steve Daru Clubhouse.
Left: view toward the northwest over residential housing. The major street that runs diagonally across the scene is Silverbell Rd. Right: close-up shot of houses just north of the park. Notice the palm trees and light-colored roofs to reflect heat.
Looking southward (left). The dark hills in the distance are Sentinel Park (left) and Tumamoc Hill (right). Ball diamonds (right). Upper right is the Western Little League field with a practice field to lower right. Larger fields are on the left side.

Fain Lake, Prescott Valley (2019)

Prescott Valley in northern Arizona is about twice the elevation of Tucson and has a noticeably colder climate. Nearby Prescott was the territorial capital of Arizona and the center of considerable mining activity in the past. We stayed with our friends, Jim and Susan Schubert, who hosted us and helped us to locate potential sites and to conduct KAP at Fain Park.

Fain Lake is a small reservoir dammed in a narrow valley on Linx Creek. Lake surface elevation is 5075 feet (~1560 m). The lake is designated as "community fishing water" by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Several sport fish include channel catfish, rainbow trout, sunfish, and largemouth bass. Surrounding rocky outcrops consist of granodiorite, which is similar to granite but with a higher portion of dark-colored minerals. Age of the granodiorite is middle Proterozoic, approximately 1680 million years old (Johnson et al. 2013). Tailings piles and gravel pits from old mines are found along Lynx Creek valley nearby.

The Linx Creek District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Monument at Fain Park adjacent to our flying station on the ground.

The adjacent small park provided a venue for KAP. Sky was mostly clear and wind was in the 10-15 mph range. This should have been ideal for our purposes, so we flew our large rokkaku with a tail and the new autoKAP rig with Sony camera. However, swirling wind in the narrow canyon proved troublesome, and a wind shift from southwest to southeast caused further problems. Kite flying required our complete attention. After finishing the photo session and removing the camera rig from the kite line, we were forced to land the kite on the far side of a tree. Nonetheless, we recovered all equipment without incident or damage.

Fain Lake
Aerial views
Fain Lake with picnic area and fishing dock (left). Linx Creek enters the lake at upper right. Kite flyers to lower left (*). Lake and dam (right) with the Chapel of the Valley on the adjacent hill top.
View westward (left). Linx Creek enters the lake at lower left, another small tributary, Alberson Wash comes in at lower right. The road in background is Stoneridge Drive. Overview looking to south (right). Again, Stoneridge Drive is the road in background.
Overview toward north (left) along 5th Street. Commercial enterprises and residential area beyond. Note the powerline across bottom of view; we set up to avoid this obstacle. Also a water-supply canal is visible. Water is diverted from upstream and feeds into Mesa Reservoir downstream (right).
Close-up shot of the Fain Lake dam (left). An observation deck (*) overlooks the narrow canyon below the dam. Even closer view of granodiorite rock outcrop (right) next to dam.

Coconino National Forest (2020)

Coconino National Forest covers more than 1.8 million acres (>7500 km2) in the vicinity of Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is located in the Red Rock district of the Mogollon Rim, a major escarpment that marks the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The Mogollon Rim is a high cliff in which the Kaibab Limestone and Coconino Sandstone are exposed. Approaching Sedona from the south on Arizona Highway 89A, this escarpment is quite conspicuous.

Panorama looking to the north (left) and northeast (right) from
the Hwy 89A Trailhead. Assembled from two wide-angle shots.

We drove with our friends Jim and Susan Schubert to a trailhead parking area on Loy Butte Road near Dad Jones Tank, just off Highway 89A south of Sedona (USGS TopoView 2020). Elevation here is approximately 3960 feet (~1205 m), well above the 1000-meter limit that we consider high altitude for kite flying. This spot is popular for riding dirt bikes and ATVs. The vegetation consists of scattered juniper trees, prickly-pear cactus, and clumps of grass growing on a basaltic lava flow. Moderate south wind, mostly sunny sky, and temperature around 50 °F (~10 °C) made for a cool, but pleasant afternoon.

Mogollon Rim viewpoint
Overview (left) and closer shot (right) looking northward. Loy Butte Road appears on left and Hwy 89A on right of overview. Red and buff colors of the Mogollon Rim are highlighted in the afternoon sun.
Left: red patch in the center of view is Dad Jones Tank. The term "tank" refers to a desert water hole, such as a spring, well or depression that may hold water and contain a pond or wetland. Right: close-up view of parking area for vehicles and trailers used for dirt bikes and ATVs.
White Flat Tank just east of Hwy 89A appears to be the site of some irritation—note white pipes on ground and water sprays. Overview (left) and close-up shot (right). The purpose of irrigating the desert vegetation is unknown.
Ground shots of juniper trees, grass, small flowering plants, and prickly-pear cactus growing on rocky basalt outcrops. We had to step carefully in this terrain.

References


Text and images © J.S. and S.W. Aber

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Last update: February 2020.