Water lines

I run around Tempe Town Lake a couple times a week with an early morning gaggle of friends. We muddle through a 4.2 mile loop that includes bridges, dirt paths, canals, horses, the occasional rooster and even the odd coyote. (And once a man I thought was a moose. Long story.) It is in the center of Tempe — my little city of a million or so.

Here little rabbit

Public art

railroad bridge


Last week, one of the rubber sections of the dam broke, sending much of the water into a dry lake bed beyond and leaving me unexpectedly emotional. I’ve swam in the lake for sport — including the 1/2 Ironman — and fallen in love with the charm of this monumentally-out-of-place body of water. Surrounded by desert, the lake and its well-worn running paths, have become friends. More than once, when I wanted no one else to see me upset, I laced up my sneaks for a teary jog. The magic of the exercise and the time with urban nature always worked its serendipitous ways.

Ready for water


Tree of life

Tree of life

Tempe Center for the Arts

A view

Lake bottom

Sole survivor

When the dam popped, it was big news city-wide. Our group happened to be running the next morning, which we did with a handful of reporters gathered at the parking lot where we meet. We’ve watched the water recede considerably in the last few days and ogled the odd pieces of furniture and metal jutting from from the drying soil. The fish were captured by game and fish and donated to the local herpetological society for alligator food. The entire thing has been, well, a bust.

Tempe Center for the Arts, down dam

Water water everywhere...



Swallow nests

Bridge Beam

Above the bridge


But it did give me good reason to grab Matty and head to the lake for a long walk after work with my camera. I think we safely captured both the charm of the park and the sadness of its temporary dry spell.

Drop by drop

Rural Road Bridge

Pelican Tempe

Remind me never to wish to come back to the next life as a city fish.


P.S. Update to this story — apparently it’s spurred contests over which type of swimmer tastes better. Oy.

10 Replies to “Evaporate”

  1. It’s beyond sad. I really felt so bad for the fish that I didn’t want to go have a looksee until I was sure I wouldn’t see any flopping around. I just think it’s wrong, on many levels, to make a lake where one shouldn’t be and stock it with fish that aren’t there naturally, and attract a lot of other wildlife and then, poof, it’s the poor animals that suffer when the bladder breaks. More fish will be stocked when the lake is refilled, more wildlife will come, and then it might happen all over again next time the big tire springs a leak. Of course, the lake needs to refilled–now there are too many other things dependent upon it but I still don’t understand why the dam had to be rubber to begin with. Animals always suffer at the hand of man’s stupidity and people just think it’s funny.

    Your photos are poignant.

  2. Sorry the blow up pool popped. I have not spent much time on it, but ironically it was this time last year I turned down a boating gig on the lake. Sadness for the creatures that had come to know it as home.

  3. Little known fact: I lay claim to being the last person to circumnavigate Tempe Town Lake (at the bottom of the lake). The day before they began to fill it, I drove over and ran the loop *inside* the lake, running clockwise on the bottom. Just because I wanted to be able to say I did it. 🙂

  4. So they didn’t bring in alligators to eat the fish, but they DID feed the fish to the alligators? I was trying to explain the twitter convo between you and Adam and Juliann last week about this to my parents and they were like ‘wtf’?

  5. Your pictures are fantastic!

    When we lived in Tallahassee, a very large bass-filled lake drained almost completely – it happens about every 25 years. There is a sinkhole under the lake that causes the natural drain. Isn’t that wild? The Bass Club had to fish elsewhere until the lake filled again.

  6. “More than once, when I wanted no one else to see me upset, I laced up my sneaks for a teary jog.” I hear ya. I always thought that ‘lake’ was so out of place when I lived next to it, but, man, did I appreciate a hard run around it when things were going downhill. Your photos really capture it well. And, as always, I’m amazed what you pack into your busy life!

  7. One of your reader’s comments prompted this thought: actually, the fish are meant to be there. We stopped the river that naturally ran through here long ago. If you go to Monte’s La Casa Vija you’ll see pictures of people swimming here in the river before we created our other lakes and the riverbed dried up. Then we filled it again. And now it’s dried again. It’s shocking to drive past it all empty though.

  8. I have been on family vacation and have not checked your blog in about a week. After a quick catch up let me say that your photos this past week are amazing.

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