From Ghost River to Living River

Claire Zugmeyer of Sonoran Institute and daughter at the All Souls Procession. Photo by Sky Jacobs.

The Tucson All Souls Procession is moving this year and I couldn’t be happier. This year’s route will parallel a stretch of our Santa Cruz River. In my mind, there is no better place to have this beautiful community event that respects and honors those who have come and gone, than right along the life-blood of Tucson. The Santa Cruz, after all, is the reason we can all call this region home. It has nourished and sustained the people for over 12,000 years.

This year’s route change is personally very timely. This year’s procession comes shortly after my 10-year anniversary at Sonoran Institute. I have been honored to contribute to our Santa Cruz River Initiative. I have found our work to be very fulfilling and at the same time significant in deeply connecting me to this amazing and vibrant region. Although the Santa Cruz has changed since people first arrived in this valley, our river is still living. Whether dry or wet, there are places to explore and cherish for the past they honor and the future we seek.

Sonoran Institute has been working in this watershed since our inception. We strive to revitalize the Santa Cruz by reconnecting people to the river and restoring watershed conditions. Most importantly we aim to spread the word that while we’ve lost some flowing stretches, we’ve gained others that we need to retain. Over the last decade our Living River reports have demonstrated that with the release of highly treated wastewater, we can give back to the Santa Cruz and to our community. This vital reclaimed water supports rare habitat for wildlife, recharges our groundwater supplies, and nourishes a vibrant green corridor that builds a community amenity while honoring our river heritage.

2015 Fish Survey on the Santa Cruz River. Photo by Brian Powell

The move of the procession route is timely for another reason. For the first time, we have a promising opportunity to build upon our existing network of effluent-dependent wetland areas with Tucson Water’s proposal to use treated wastewater to add another flowing stretch of river through Downtown Tucson. Located in the heart of the watershed, this stretch would possibly be the most visible and accessible for people in the region—thus significant to helping link our community to this key resource.

Therefore, this year we are excited to organize a group that will participate in this annual event with our friends at Watershed Management Group. We will walk to honor the ghost of our river’s past. At the same time, we will walk to celebrate our living river for what it is and what it can become. We invite you to join us and reconnect with your Santa Cruz River through this unique Tucson tradition. If you’d like to meet up and join in the procession check out WMG’s event page or send an email to Elise Christmon: echristmon [at]

UPDATE: View photos from this year’s Procession on our Facebook album

Blog Post By: Claire Zugmeyer, Sonoran Institute