The May 1999 Gila Box Expedition via the Gila River and the San Francisco River

Written by John Hill, Mon May 17, 1999

We had a lovely trip through the Gila Box on Saturday May 15 on the Gila River east of Safford, AZ. We stayed in Safford overnight since several of us had been at LBT on Mt. Graham the day before. We had a leisurely breakfast and left Safford at 9AM. We went in to the Gial at Bonita Creek. The good news is that the BLM has not yet closed vehicle access to the Gila Box.

The participants were: J. Hill in "The River", R. & R. Peterson in "Free Willy", J. Waack in his stock S-10 Blazer, and E. McCullough in his new stock F-250. The weather has been dry so the river was only running at 80 CFS. This makes the trail passable for even the stock vehicles, but you still have to be experienced at reading the crossings.

We cruised right on up the river gorge. We saw a group of 18 bighorn sheep including 6 small lambs. Normally the water is too high in the spring and we don't see the lambs this young. We spotted them about 60 yards away and were able to walk within 30 yards without disturbing them.

We went out via the San Francisco River and were at the gas station in Morenci by 2:30 PM. For the first time ever, we ran the Gila Box without anybody getting stuck, and without getting our feet wet! You may ask: where's the fun in that?, but it was a very nice day. At least I was able to roll a wave of water up over my hood.

On the way home, we scouted the access to the Upper San Fancisco River above Clifton for our June camping trip. The scenery up there looks like it will rival the Gila Box.

Trail Rating and Topographic Maps for the Gila Box

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Last modified: Thu Jun 25 16:24:37 2009