Sycamore Creek - SYCA

Site Type

Core Aquatic


Arizona, D14, Desert Southwest

Site Host

U. S. Forest Service

Map Legend
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Aquatic Site Marker

This map depicts the spatial layout of this field site. Please note that some locations may have moved over time due to logistics, safety and science requirements. This map was updated on May 15, 2018

Construction Status for this Site

Civil Construction Sensor Installation Field Sampling Data Status
Partially Available


Site history & management

Sycamore Creek is a 5th order, intermittent Sonoran Desert stream located approximately 32 km northeast of the Phoenix, Arizona. The stream drains a watershed approximately 505 km2 (Fisher and Minckley 1978).


Precipitation in the Sycamore Creek watershed averages 34-58 cm, depending on elevation. Rainfall is bimodally distributed with peaks in the winter and summer (Jones et al. 1997).  Runoff from summer monsoon storms can produce severe flash flooding which can increase stream discharge several orders of magnitude within a few hours.  Mean pan evaporation is approximately six times precipitation (Fisher and Minckely 1978). During the fall and late-spring, the stream often has no surface flow. 

Site History

The Sycamore Creek watershed is representative of many small watersheds in the southwest (Thomsen and Schumann 1968).  As a result, numerous aquatic ecology studies have been carried out in the stream since the 1960s.

Site Management

The Sycamore Creek watershed is located within Tonto National Forest and administered by the US Forest Service. 

Dominant Vegetation

Most of the Sycamore Creek watershed is classified as Sonoran Desert scrub, with the exception of the highest elevations (Fisher and Minckley 1978).  Riparian vegetation is sparsely distributed.  Willow, cottonwood, mesquite, ash, and walnut are limited to areas inundated only during highest flows (Jones et al. 1997). 


The watershed is composed of igneous and metamorphic rock with shallow overlying soils and unconsolidated sediments (Thomsen and Schumann 1968). 


Fisher, S.G. and W.L. Minckley.  1978.  Chemical characteristics of a desert stream in flash flood.  Journal of Arid Environments 1:25-33.

Jones, J.B., Schade, J.D., Fisher, S.G., and N.B. Grimm.  1997.  Organic matter dynamics in Sycamore Creek, a desert stream in Arizona. USA.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society.  Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 78-82.

Thomsen, B.W. and H.H. Schumann..  1968.  The Sycamore Creek watershed, Maricopa County, Arizona.  U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Supply Paper 1861.  53 pp. 

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