New pump at Dead Horse Ranch State Park means 'longer life for fish'

The concrete water outlet at the top lagoon flows water down a cement step system and aerates the water before it goes back into the lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

The concrete water outlet at the top lagoon flows water down a cement step system and aerates the water before it goes back into the lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

COTTONWOOD -- The channel catfish, redear sunfish, largemouth bass, grass carp, rainbow trout, and occasional crappie that live in the three lagoons at Dead Horse Ranch State Park are in for a pleasant surprise.

Starting this week, a new pump will recirculate water from the bottom of one lagoon to the top of another lagoon, providing cleaner water for the fish as well as state park users.

This will provide circulation in the lagoon without having to divert as much water from the Verde River and conserve water, explained Kim Schonek, of the Nature Conservancy.

The only time there was water flow in the three man-made lagoons was when the ditch was diverting water from the Verde River, Schonek said. The water enters the lagoon from Hickey Ditch which is fed from the Verde River

The new pump, which was installed in a small metal shed at one of the lagoons last week, pumps 540 gallons of water per minute from the first lagoon, up pipes around the second lagoon and to the top of third lagoon.

The recirculated water will mean a "longer life for the fish, cleaner water for the people here. A better fishing experience,” Schonek continued. There will be fewer algae. “It’s a healthier environment for fish.”

The pumping project is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, Arizona State Parks and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, which funded the pump project through the Conservancy, Schonek said

The pipes for the new recirculation project were actually installed years ago, explained Schonek. The pipes were buried in early 2000s, but the project was never finished.

The concrete water outlet at the top lagoon flows water down the cement step system and aerates the water before it goes back into the lagoon.

Schonek said Dead Horse is one of the most popular of the Arizona State Parks and the fishing lagoons are the primary attraction.

The circulation system allows the water quality to be improved, she said. And this decreases the reliance on the Kicky Ditch divergence which diverts water from the Verde River up by Tuzigoot.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, based in Phoenix and Indianapolis, recently donated more than $3 million dollars to support the Conservancy’s Verde River projects, explained the Nature Conservancy’s news release.

“Our support helps ensure there’s enough water in the Verde River to provide drinking water for people, boost local economies and enhance recreational opportunities,” said Carol Peden Schilling, chair of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

“We can solve Arizona’s water challenges by finding common ground and working together,” said Patrick Graham, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “When we protect and preserve our natural resources, we improve our quality of life. This is good for people and good for nature.”

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