Cluff Pond #3 is set to begin refilling Friday

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Cluff Pond #3 is set to begin refilling on Friday; a process that will take roughly three months.

Sport fishing to return possibly by late summer

By Jon Johnson

CLUFF PONDS – After more than two years of refurbishment, Cluff Pond #3 is set to begin being refilled on Friday, April 28. The process is expected to take roughly three months to complete, according to Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area Manager Matt Pelto, who said he would begin working on getting the water started into the pond on Friday. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

While being refilled, the pond will be restocked with sport fish as quickly as the water quality allows. The Arizona Game & Fish Department anticipates reopening the pond to the public in late summer/early fall this year. 

In addition to being the center of fishing and recreation in the area, Pond #3 is also the initial reservoir that supplies water to Pond #1 and the remainder of wildlife wetland areas and ponds in the area.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The dock is dry now but within three months Cluff Pond #3 should be back in business.

However, over the years, the valve to let water out of Pond #3 stopped functioning. That, coupled with diminished water from Pond #3’s source, Ash Creek, contributed to the ponds going dry. 

Recent history of Cluff Pond #3

Arizona Game & Fish has been working on the area since the Frye Fire in the summer of 2017 burned the  Ash Creek drainage and subsequent floods damaged the water delivery system. While the drainage is repaired over the next few years, a temporary diversion in Ash Creek lower down the creek was utilized, but the water volume is less than previously.

Jon Johnson Photo: Additional additional earthen structures were created to improve the aquatic habitat.

Then the drought of 2020 stopped the water flow of Ash Creek and caused Pond #3 to drop very low. At that point, the decision was made to drain the pond and replace the valve, according to Pelto. Unfortunately, when the draining began, workers found sediment had accumulated to the point where it buried the valve. Dredging was proposed as the solution, but that forced an additional round of environmental assessments. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Arizona Game & Fish will begin refilling Cluff Pond #3 on Friday, April 28. The pond is fed by Ash Creek.

The dredging work was completed in the spring of 2022 and additional earthen structures were created to improve the aquatic habitat, according to Game & Fish. Additionally, a large dirt pad was made northwest of the pond to become future campsites. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Arizona Game & Fish anticipates a late summer/early fall opening for Cluff Pond #3.

The replacement valve arrived in July 2022, but it was found to be missing a piece that needed to be custom-made and took an additional 20 weeks to be created and arrive. 

While waiting for the valve, workers installed new aquatic habitat structures in the pond, and an extensive cleanup was completed. Additionally, 760 feet of the pipeline that delivers water to Pond #3 from Ash Creek was replaced and the temporary diversion was rebuilt, making Pond #3’s water delivery system functional again.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Workers installed new aquatic habitat structures in the pond