The setting of BLOOD IN TAVASCI MARSH

Autumn Cat tails at Tavasci Marsh

The most frequent questions I get about the title of the second
Pegasus Quincy novel are:

How do you pronounce Tavasci?
That one is easy: Tah-vas’-ski

AND,

Is Tavasci Marsh a real place?
It certainly is!

I’ve lived in the Verde Valley for many years, and Tavasci Marsh is one of my favorite places to visit.

In addition to all those golden butterflies hovering around the rabbit brush, over 245 species of birds have been found there, making it one of the premier birding areas in Arizona.

The marsh has an interesting history. With only 10-12 inches of rain per year, Arizona counts any water source as precious, and Tavasci Marsh is the largest fresh water marsh in Arizona outside the Colorado River Basin.

It was formed when the Verde River formed an ox-bow, a sharp, almost U-turn in the river, and, then capriciously, returned to a straighter course. The water left by the abandoning river created Tavasci Marsh, which continues to be fed by Shea Spring and by underground seeps from the river.

The marsh was a food source for the Sinagua Indians who built a large hundred-room pueblo on the top of a nearby mountain, now managed as Tuzigoot National Monument. Their first dwellings were dated about 1000 AD, and it wasn’t until almost 900 years later that the first white settler arrived.

He was a cattle farmer in the 1890s, whose name, Tavasci, was given to the marsh. He drained the wetlands so that he could raise beef cattle to feed to the copper miners working in the nearby boom town of Jerome.

The owners of these copper mines, which stripped incredibly rich copper ore from Mingus Mountain, eventually acquired the marsh. The huge copper smelters in Clarkdale were only a few miles beyond the marsh on higher ground. This geography, coupled with the fact that mining operations were so imprecise in the early days, caused Tavasci Marsh to become highly polluted with heavy metals, from slag and tailing run-offs.

Even today, there are high levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead and other poisonous metals in the soil and even the insects of the marsh. A restoration project has been proposed to change this unfortunate state of affairs!

Spring cat tails at Tavasci Marsh

When the mines closed down in the 50s, the land reverted to a more natural state, and beaver had a renaissance. Their dams turned the dairy farm lands back into a wetlands marsh.

The desert mesquites and acacia trees were drowned by the rising waters, but they provided an ideal environment for cat tails. Today, much of the marsh is inundated by these tall marsh plants, so much so that open water is increasingly rare.

Doug van Gausig has been called the Bird Man of Tavasci Marsh, and sometimes hosts field trips to Tavasci Marsh during the annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, affectionately known as the Birdy-Verde, each year. Here you can find a number of migrating waterfowl, raptors such as the brown and golden eagle, blue and green herons, and animals such as river otter and, of course, beaver and muskrats.

Doug has ventured into Drone Photography, and has several great YouTube videos that give you another perspective on Tavasci Marsh:

In this one, you can see a river otter investigating a water sampler:

 

In short, Tavasci Marsh seemed the perfect place to stage a murder, so I did!

Every now and then I get an email from a reader with a picture of Flycatcher Road or Tuzigoot Monument, saying “We found it!”

I hope, someday, that you will, too.

 

 

The Creeks of the Verde Valley

Some people think of Arizona as a desert state, which it is, but the mid-part of the state is home to the beautiful Verde River and its five tributaries, Fossil Creek, Granite Creek, Oak Creek, Sycamore Creek and Clear Creek. And if you’d like to add a few, there is also dry Beaver Creek and its sister, Wet Beaver Creek.

Because the elevation drops through three life zones from north to south, this river and tributaries are a price beyond measure to the wild life they nourish. In 1984 the Verde was designated as a wild and scenic river.

The picture below is of Clear Creek, during a flood stage. It certainly lives up to that title!

This afternoon I heard a cardinal sing

Observed near the Salton Sea, this female quai...

I woke this morning thinking I heard quail, and that was patently impossible, because I was surrounded by dozens of parked semi-trucks beside my motel, miles and miles of freeway on the other side, and a room three stories up. But I awoke thinking I heard the quail.

I had driven from my little town to Phoenix for the weekend. These communities are less than a hundred miles apart, but at the same time, are places that belong to different worlds: Phoenix-metro has about three million people; my little town about fifteen thousand. In my town right now the iris and forsythia are blooming; in Phoenix, the palo verde trees have turned a brilliant gold and the ironwood trees are a filagreed lavender.

Did I mention the traffic? We have only four-lane roads in my little town, and not too many of those. Phoenix has hundreds of miles of ten-lane freeways, as evidenced by the sooty residue on my car’s windshield this morning.

And money! We don’t have a lot here; WalMart is our big time shopping adventure. Scottsdale, on the edge of Phoenix has Neiman Marcus, a dedicated Mont Blanc shop, and the newest of Tesla showrooms.

Churches, too. I visited a Phoenix church this morning boasting a magnificent choir, acres of stained glass windows, and a membership approaching five thousand. The little church I often frequent in my home town has maybe two hundred members in attendance on a good Sunday—say, Easter.

Both places are important to me, for different reasons. I like to visit Phoenix, because it gives me perspective on my problems and goals and adventures. Somehow ninety miles from home I can see clearly what I cannot envision up close and personal in my easy chair.

I need, not the affluence of the metropolitan area, but rather the contrast of differences, the ability to say, oh! there is another world out there, not better or worse, but unique in its own way. I am not alone in my searching.

Northern Cardinal / Cardinal rouge

And this afternoon, when I came back, a cardinal singing in the crepe myrtle welcomed me home. A good journey, indeed!