Artistic Flood Prevention in Clifton

CLIFTON — The southern portion of Clifton suffered major damage when the San Francisco River overran its banks twice in the 1970s and again in 1983. To remedy that, the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Arizona developed a levee system to serve as flood control. But the levee had to cross State Route 75, Clifton’s main street. That created a problem.

Flood gate in Clifton. Photo Credit: Sam Lowe
Flood gate in Clifton crosses SR 75. Photo Credit: Sam Lowe

So the agencies authorized construction of a huge gate that would be open most of the time but would automatically close whenever the river runs wild. The levee walls are thick concrete, but the gate is a work of art. It stands about 12 feet tall, measures 25 feet across, and weighs about five tons. The panels of rusted iron and corrugated steel are designed to resemble the mountainous landscape that surrounds the community.

So, does it work?

It has functioned properly during trial runs, but Arizona has been in a severe drought since the mid-1990s so the gate has never been tested under flood conditions.


  1. SaraD says

    This gate definitely generates mixed emotions. You want to see if it works, but that would mean potentially devastating flooding for parts of the state, but if it doesn’t flood, you’ll never know if it works. Catch-22.

    Boy, I remember those floods of the ’70s! Folks who just moved here recently have no idea what happens to Arizona when it really rains.

  2. says

    Well, it flooded today, so there is your trial run. Used to live there in Morenci, so we weren’t there to see it first hand. Clifton still flooded, but I am not sure if could have been better or worse with the gates. I am going to say, from what people said, it would have been worse WITHOUT the gate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *