Big Springs Trail Point 3

Number3Stream Power

Bald Eagle

Big Springs provides the most necessary element to life and change – water. Water is part of a dynamic system that interacts with the land, causing change. How strong is Walnut Creek’s flow passing under the bridge? The strength of the stream flow determines the amount of change water can inflict. Where the slope is steep or geologic processes are at work raising the land, stream flows are faster, stronger agents of change that cut into and erode landforms (like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon).

Look at the clear waters of Big Springs. The slope is gentle and the stream banks are protected from erosion by vegetation. This kind of stream has less down cutting and sediment input, resulting in clearer waters.

Now look at the pebbles and sediment in the stream bottom. The stream’s current is an active force of erosion and deposition, constantly moving sediment and changing landscapes. If stream flow slows enough, streams may change over time by dropping the sediment they carry. This deposition of sediment can displace the water sideways, causing the stream to spread out and change its course. Does the stream flow at Big Springs affect areas outside of Big Springs? This stream supplies water, sediment and anything carried by the water along Walnut Creek and into Rainbow Lake downstream.

The habitat needs for ⅔ of all wildlife in Arizona are directly tied to water associated with streams, wetlands and lakes. Migrating bald eagles may be seen in the Pinetop-Lakeside area from November through March.

Trail Themes

The numbered posts correspond to the symbols below and the points of interest you’ll encounter along the trail. Each point is described in this guide. The symbols relate to these key interpretative themes:


Please tread lightly by staying on trails.
“Take only pictures and memories – leave only footprints.”

Trail pages

Trail Point 1

Trail Point 2

Trail Point 3

Trail Point 4

Trail Point 5

Trail Point 6

Trail Point 7

Trail Point 8

Trail Point 9

Trail Point 10

Trail Point 11

Trail Point 12

Trail Point 13

Big Springs is located on Woodland Road, ½ mile south of White Mountain Blvd. (State Route 260), adjacent to the White Mountain Wildlife & Nature Center. Many improvements have been made at Big Springs to facilitate environmental education and public use. Many such improvements were funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund, established by voter initiative in 1990, with funding from the Arizona lottery. The latest improvements and brochure printing were funded by a Secure Rural Schools Act grant from the U. S. Forest Service to the White Mountain Nature Center. Big Springs is managed under a unique partnership. Land ownership is national forest, with a special use permit for an outdoor classroom issued to the Blue Ridge Unified School District. These partners cooperate in its management and enhancement: