Gila River - Old Safford Bridge to Dry Canyon - Oct 2022 @ 1600 CFS

This section is where I first learned to kayak rivers and it was a pleasure to run this hidden gem one more time. Been a tough fall for boating. There had been 3 San Juan trips scheduled within a month. The first caught a late-season heat spell which took the fun out of that trip. I was the permit holder for the second and cancelled from a lack of interest and the memories of soaking in the heat two weeks earlier. After missing my wedding anniversary two years in a row by boating, was leaning towards skipping the third trip. Catching a bad cold actually made the decision for me. The cold lingered enough that Mark J. pulled the plug on a replacement Box trip rather than expose himself and the shuttle driver to it.

What both of us assumed at that point was that the water was over until snowmelt. The Safford gauge was wanky so no accurate idea how much water eventually came down the river but there was over 10,000 CFS at the Gila-Cliff gauge. Based on the debris and full-size trees stuck 20 feet up cliff walls, it was the biggest flow in several years in the Box.

Except for a cool, overcast, and windy morning on takeout day, the weather was perfect. With the after 3PM launch, we barely had time to setup the tents before dark at Gillard Hot Springs. We both enjoyed our stay at the quirky springs. My understanding is that at one point a resort was located there which could account for the old structures located there. We were quite apprehensive about the stretch from the bridge to the SFR confluence and with good cause. With the flow level, summertime brush, and flood debris, it was disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately we had no issues but some spots had us sweating. Life became much easier after the confluence, even with the additional flow. The SFR contributed as much as I've ever seen.

What has been sorely lacking the last few years was a shuttle driver and Mark came up with VirGene. He was bona fide and seemed to be the man. A real plus is that he is located on Airport road only minutes from the takeout. Cost was $125 but we chipped in another $25 in order that we could leave a key with him and the understanding our vehicle would be at the takeout on Sunday. We avoided extra driving time that way and he didn't have to wait around while we rigged. If the log is accurate, this was my 23rd trip through the Box and one of my favorites. Photos by Mark and myself.

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Trip report image
USGS flow link image