The July 1997 Gila Box Expedition via the Gila River and the San Francisco River

Written by Bob Peterson Mon Jul 07 13:45 MST 1997
Last modified Sun Aug 10 16:04 MST 1997

This Tucson Rough Riders trip was organized by Bob "Free Willy" Peterson and John "Over Easy" Waack. Seven vehicles left I-10 and Houghton Rd. at 8:10 a.m. on Saturday July 5. They entered the Gila Box east of Safford at about 11:30 a.m. with trucks ranging from a Chevy Suburban to a Toyota 4runner to a Suzuki Samurai. Vaughan met up with us in the afternoon, he had driven down from Hannagan Meadow. The Gila River was low (70 cfs), and the going at first was slow, until we convinced the 3/4 ton Ford to air down from 55psi to 30psi. It is amazing how much more traction and floatation was gained with the lower pressure. The 5000#, 9000#, and 12000# winches were all put to the test. Three vehicles needed a pull to get up one of the steep gravel river banks, and a CJ needed a tug after getting stuck in the river with a burned out starter motor. After taking a wrong turn in the river, two vehicles got stuck up to their frames in quicksand ---> Free Willy deja vu! This is where the 12000# winch was needed, it paid for it's oats. The canyon scenery was spectacular, and the river was cool and clear. Two of our guests, Dr. Mike Drake, Dept. head of Planetary Sciences, and Dr. Ed McCullough, geologist and former Dean of the College of Science gave us a geology 'talk' on the 'Gila Box' and surrounding Lava flows. We camped on a large sand shelf above the confluence of the Gila and San Francisco rivers, with a slight breeze and cooler night temps (68 deg.) camping was comfortable. The next day we drove up the San Francisco river to Morenci, then drove home via Safford.

Damage report:

We are planning to run the 'Box' again, via Eagle Creek (hot springs, bat caves, grave sites, mining ruins, etc.) in early-mid November for some Fall color.

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Last modified: Sun Aug 10 16:18:26 1997