Gila River - Old Safford Bridge to Dry Canyon - 03/19

Had been invited as part of a fairly large group to boat the Gila Box on March 15th. Someone else's trip with unfamiliar boaters not usually in my wheelhouse. Was very much looking forward to the trip as it was so different. Packed an IK and gear as flow was just below my oar rig low-limit even though a storm was predicted to drop moisture prior to launching. No one expected the amount of water that would arrive with the storm. Enough flow that everyone cancelled that weekend. The flow and weather on the next weekend was too good to pass up for Mike Watts and myself, even knowing that the high water and resulting mud would limit possible campsites.

So it was a two-boat, two-person trip itinerary with the shuttle being provided by Daniel Burell (928-965-3708). Cost was $100 and was worth it to save a half-day of driving. Daniel is a Safford native and was an interesting guy. I would go with him again no problem. We launched at one in the afternoon with 870 CFS on the Clifton gauge. It was a very fast run down to the Gillard Hot Springs which proved a very nice campsite. There were essentially no obstacles down to the confluence but straying into trees always within reach. If you flipped, likely would not be enough time to self-rescue before being stuffed into the side somewhere.

We had planned on spending two nights on the river, but a snafu grabbing a nice campsite across from Black Canyon left us without viable campsites the last 4 miles of the trip. So we only spent a day and a half on the river. Normally that would be a lot of work, but at the flows we had, no issue at all. We simply steered downriver. We had conflicting information on if they had recovered the kayakers body that drowned just above the bridge. Daniel had heard they did but we saw one search and rescue person with a long pole searching the riverbank. Sad. Otherwise, about an easy of a trip as happens.

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Trip report image
USGS flow link image