Gila River - Needles Eye Wilderness - Coolidge Dam to Winkelman - Feb, 2014

This is one of the premiere, and least run wilderness paddles in Arizona. It is also one of the most scenic and inaccessible river stretches in Arizona. Jon Fuller, who is involved with a low-water navigatibility study of this section for the state, extended an invitation for this three day trip. The weather was unexpectedly cold the first night, then perfect for the rest of the trip. At 220 CFS, there were many class I+ to III- rapids and a seemingly endless number of sweepers and strainers. The rapids tend to wash out at higher flows but the risk from the brush/trees would get scary. It was obvious that essentially no one runs this portion of the Gila River. We took 3 days to do the approximate 30 river miles.

That point was the topic of more than one conversation. The below excerpt from the BLM web site notes the lack of legal access. Does anyone have any knowledge or history concerning attempts to gain access for the public to the Needles Eye area?

"Currently there is no legal access to the Needle's Eye Wilderness. From Phoenix, take State Highway 60 to Globe. Along Highway 70 east of Globe, the area can be accessed either from the Coolidge Dam or the Ranch Creek Road. You must obtain a recreation permit from the San Carlos Apache Indian Tribe in advance. Twenty-six miles south of Globe along Highway 77, the area can be accessed near the Dripping Springs Wash. You must obtain permission to cross State Trust lands and private lands in advance."

Photo and video credits: Jon Fuller, Grace, Gene Couch.

Click images to view trip report details.

Trip report image
USGS flow link image