Gila River below Gila National Monument


Stretch: Grapevine campground to Mogollon Creek campground
Difficulty: Class II with some canoe-class III and possible downed trees
Distance: 42.6 miles, 4 days or more
Flows: canoes and kayaks 200 - 1200, raft minimum 500
Gauge: measured above Mogollon Creek, near Gila (USGS site)
Gradient: 22 fpm average, fairly constant
Put-in: on East Fork or at highway bridge below confluence, 5560'
Take-out: on R just below the mouth of Mogollon Creek, 4620'
Shuttle: 75 miles (two hours) one-way, mostly paved
Maps: Delorme New Mexico, AAA New Mexico, Topo
Season: early spring from snowmelt and rain
Agency: Gila Wilderness and National Forest
Notes: © 2010 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

The Gila is a classic river trip with world-class scenery, moderate rapids, relatively clear water, and plentiful superb (although underused) campsites. When snowpack exceeds 100% in southwestern New Mexico, you might want to alter your March or April schedule accordingly. Although the put-in elevation is high, and temperatures dip at night, the southern latitude frequently affords warm sunny afternoons.

A visit to the Gila cliff dwellings, designated a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, makes an excellent prelude to your trip. Shuttle service is available from resorts at Gila Hot Springs, about a mile upstream of put-in, for example The Wilderness Lodge. The park visitor's center is further upstream near the confluence of the middle and north forks of the Gila. If the bridge across the middle fork is open to traffic, the climb to the cliff dwellings is about a mile round trip. Otherwise (as in 2010) add several miles to the hike.

There is a lukewarm hot spring about two miles down the river from put-in, and a famous complex of hot springs reachable by hiking 4 miles up Turkey Creek. The scenery starts out good and gets better as you approach Turkey Creek, where the canyon somewhat resembles the Green River in Utah. Many campsites offer sandy beaches backed by large wooded benches. Clear water is available from many side streams, though not as many as blue lines marked on the topo map, and especially at low and moderate flows, river water can be settled and purified.

mile 0
Put in on the East Fork Gila at Grapevine campground, or if flow is low, at the highway bridge below the confluence.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
East Fork at Grapevine campground  Red sky at night? Nope!
Lukewarm hot springs on the left, hard to spot from the river. Large camping area on river right across from the hot springs.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Near the lukewarm hot springs  Easy rapid with difficult log
Alum camp and canyon on the left.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Kayaker dwarfed by rock spire  Beautiful sycamore trees abound
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Weather starts to clear  Waterfall on unknown creek
Approximate beginning of Murtocks Hole, which is really more a deep spot in the canyon rather than a hole in the mesa.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Typical rapid on the Gila  Canyon deepens in Murtocks Hole
Beautiful large camp where the river splits around an island. Large ponderosa pines provide protection from the wind. Decaying barbed-wire fences indicate historic cattle grazing, but the cowpies have disappeared.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Beautiful camp at island split  Monolith behind our camp
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Island split with eddy in middle  Right channel viewed from island
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Cave is visible below island split  High water creates haystacks on trees
Sycamore canyon and creek, a major tributary. Camping is possible but not ultra hospitable near this water source.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Snow persists on north facing peaks  Sycamore Canyon and Creek
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Brush intrudes into the channel  The canyon starts to open up
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Many side canyons for exploration  Another spire in an open section
Corral marked on topo maps near the junction of Granny trail and the river trail, here marked Sapillo trail.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Shoulder of Granny Mountain  Below the corral on the Granny trail
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Horseshoe bend before Sapillo Creek  Much beaver activity all along river
Sapillo Creek enters on the left. A trail leads up the creek. Shortly upstream the trail's left fork reaches highway 15 in about six miles, while the right fork leads to some ranches and remote dirt roads.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Sapillo Creek, with trail leading to highway 15  Rapid downstream of Sapillo Creek
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Large campsite on the right  Scenic lava(?) formation below camp
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Gray rock as the mesas get higher  Mountains are higher past the mesas
Packsaddle canyon, where a pack trail is marked on maps.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Approaching Monument Ridge  Unnamed peaks opposite Monument Ridge
Good camp on the left across from Water Canyon, above a rapid. A cable spans the river in the lower portion of the rapid (2010). Lots of camping debris has been left behind near a large fire ring.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Good camp across from Water Canyon  Rapid below camp at a cable crossing
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Great scenery near Hells Canyon  Zebra marked waterfalls on river left
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Starting to look like Utah  With some gray rock mixed in
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Snow visible on the higher peaks  Multicolored rock layers among trees
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
A good rapid, easier than it looks  Awe inspiring scenery at every bend
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Wide view of Pipi Falls  Perhaps Pipi Falls is seasonal
Utah Bill Canyon on the right, a good side hike.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Approaching Utah Bill Canyon  No surface water in Utah Bill Canyon
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Anasazi granary hidden in the white rock  Anasazi cliff dwellings behind the trees
Hidden Pasture canyon on the right, probably leading to Hidden Pasture on top of the mesa.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Past Hidden Pasture Creek  Hidden Pasture on top of this mesa
Turkey Creek enters on the right. Excellent campsites abound. When the river is lower, this area looks to be a 4WD camping mecca.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Shoulder of Hidden Pasture mountain  Excellent camp just up Turkey Creek
The hike to famous Turkey Creek hot springs is 3 to 4 miles each way. To reach the hot springs, follow an old road northward, crossing Turkey Creek several times. At the Gila Wilderness boundary, the road becomes a lightly maintained trail, always staying west of the creek. At a cairn where the trail starts climbing up switchbacks, turn right and cross Skeleton Creek (2 miles). A rudimentary trail follows mostly west of the creek, crossing from time to time, until you reach the Crux. On the way up, we crawled on our bellies up a ledge on creek left. On the way down, we gingerly lowered our packs and ourselves using a small dead tree that someone left angled on creek right. After the Crux, a rudimentary trail follows the east bank. Several hot springs are located below a small overused camp. A large camp is situated shortly upstream on the west bank. Above this camp the creek flows over a beautiful bedrock base.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
Turkey Creek above the hot springs  Pools with creek-based temperature control
At a horseshoe bend, the dirt road to Turkey Creek becomes visible, and you might find people camping. This is where the dirt road changes from 2WD to 4WD, passable only when the Gila river is low.
Gauging station on the left, reported as the “near Gila” flow.
Gila NM Wilderness Gila NM Wilderness
View of Watson Mountain cliffs  The canyon widens past the gauging station
Mogollon Creek enters on the right in a wide alluvial plain. In 2010 there were many small creeklets before the major flow joined. A shallow eddy immediately below provided a take-out near vehicle parking.
Due to diversions and fences, boating is not recommended from this point to the Middle Box put-in. The campground at the mouth of Mogollon Creek has an outhouse and designated campsites uphill along the creek. Further down the river valley, the town of Gila has a friendly general store with excellent delicatessen. Due to road closure (2010) you must return northward and drive thru Cliff to reach Silver City or put-in for the Gila Middle Box.


 Creeks Navigation

 Recommended Runs
 Map of Rivers
 Alphabetic Index
 Alphabetic Table
 Text Search

 Sponsored Links