The Spanish word arroyo means “large creek.” Often steep-walled, an arroyo may be flat-bottomed sand or laden with boulders and gravel. Arroyuelo and arroyito are the diminutive forms and mean “rill” or “brook.” Arroyos are ephemeral streams, carrying water only briefly during such events as spring runoff or the summer monsoons. In the American Southwest the words arroyo and wash are sometimes used interchangeably, as are arroyo seco (meaning “dry”) and dry wash— though the English terms often describe shorter or abbreviated water courses stretching less than a mile and not necessarily part of a specific arroyo. In Tongues of the Monte, J. Frank Dobie writes: “Three hours later, while following a thickly bushed arroyito, my mozo’s intermittent hiss to the mule not audible, I suddenly heard a low but harsh cry, ‘Alto!’ ” In Land of Clear Light, Michael Jenkinson writes: “The summer storms often produce flash floods that fill arroyos with roiling muddy water within a few seconds, a wondrous sight to behold unless your car, camp, or person happens to be in its path.”

Arturo Longoria