State 19 of 50: AZ – The Gila River


Surprises in Arizona
Date Paddled: 3/29/17
Nearest City: Safford
Put-In: Montoya Lane, York
Take-Out: Owl Creek, Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area
Duration: 3 hours
River Miles: 11.5 miles
Shuttle: Two vehicles – would be difficult bike shuttle
Weather: overcast, sunny later
Difficulty: quickwater, class I and I+ up to class III in high water
Cfs: 370 

Written by Diana

The Gila showed us an Arizona that is often over-looked, wild, remote, and panoramic. Tucked away in the south eastern part of the state, the Gila flows into Arizona from New Mexico where it presents those with class III/IV kayaking skills the opportunity to paddle through the Gila National Forest.

On this side of the border, the Gila runs muddy in the spring time and clear as the rains settle down and the water levels drop. We paddled the section upstream of the Gila  Box Riparian Canyon since we had only one day to devote to the paddle. The next section is a remote two day, 22 mile trip through an inaccessible canyon which we hope to do next year.DSCN4999The first four miles where northerly with pleasant views and fun rapids. The next miles heading westerly were more wild, with high cliffs and more challenging rapids. Channels were sometimes tight with overhanging shrubs.DSCN5018This narrows was the beginning of the second half of the paddle with a more remote feel with geological wonders!

DSCN5036We saw a variety of birds from the various duck, hawk, song, wading and varieties. Our favorite was the scarlet tanager with their startling red bodies and black wings.

DSCN4970The Gila left us longing for more… we loved the river and also the high desert terrain, nearly empty campground, and spectacular starry night skies perfect for dreaming of more kayaking adventures.


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