San Francisco River from Glenwood NM to Clifton AZ
We left Tucson at 7am and headed up to Clifton to pick up our shuttle driver. The shuttle is about 1.5 hours each way so I would highly recommend having a driver. Another benefit was that Mark, our driver kept our truck at his house because there have been reports of theft and vandalism at the take out. He was very helpful and is one of the many area residents that was laid off by the mine so he was very happy to run our shuttle and store our truck for $120. We got to the put in at the Glenwood hot springs at noon and were on our way at 12:30. The gage at Clifton read 750 CFS when we put on. I would not recommend running the river at much higher because there were many trees across the river that we were just able to squeak under with out inches to spare. We put on with me in my creek boat and then two IKs. The water at the put in was moving very swift, about 5-6 mph with out any paddling. I also wouldnít recommend running this river in anything larger than an IK. The river was full of strainers that a larger boat wouldnít have made it through. We quickly moved into a walled in canyon where the river was about 10 feet wide and never went more than 50 feet with out winding around a corner. Scouting was very difficult to impossible on most corners but luckily we never found a strainer on the entire run that didnít have some type of way over, under, or around. There were plenty of must make routes that had nasty consequences if missed. About three hours in we stumbled into one of these situations. We were eddying out to check out a cave when one of the IKs got pushed back into the current and wrapped a tree. I was a few yards down stream and gave chase to the all the gear that was escaping down river. With about a mile of pursuit I was able to save a the spare paddle , two beers , and the lid to the cooler. We lost a carbon paddle, the pump and the rest of the cooler with some food and drink. I stashed my boat and recovered gear on an island and bushwacked my way back up stream. On a side note this was the first time I was wearing my new Palm drysuit and I am totally impressed with it. It was incredibly tough and puncture resistant as I had to push my way through a lot of nasty downed trees and then swam in the river multiple times to cross since I would get walled in on one side. I am very happy with this dry suit. Back to the pinned boat. As I was making my way back Ross and Phil were able to get the boat off of the tree but it was still hung up by a strap that was looped around a submersed branch. We ran a rope off of the bow grab handle and tensioned the other end to a tree. I was able to use the rope to pull myself up to the boat and after a fair amount of work cut the strap and freed the boat. We repacked and made our way down to my boat. The whole ordeal took about an hour. We went another mile or so down river and found a great island to camp on for the night the island was about a half acre very flat and sandy. We made 15 miles the first day with only about 3 hours of float time. The next morning we woke to find one of the tubes on the previously pinned IK having a slow leak. With out a pump we decided to try to make it all the way out that day instead of the two more we had planned. We were on the water by 0830 and made our way quickly through very beautiful canyons of constantly changing rock types. We had a very good sense of how remote of an area we were in and didnít see any evidence of mankind until we saw high tension wires crossing hundreds of feet above the river as we crossed the border into Arizona. We made it too Martinez Ranch at noon where we stopped for lunch. The ranch is working and would be your best chance for rescue if need be. Just before the ranch is a diversion dam that we all ran without issue. The ranch marks a notable change in the river. From here the canyons start to open up and are no longer walled in. The strainer hazard becomes much reduced and your ability to boat scout becomes better. Some more miles down the river we reached the confluence of the Blue River, almost doubling the flow. The river widens out even more at this point and we continued our float into Clifton. About 8 miles from town a road comes into view on river left. We made it to town and were off the river at 6:30 pm with 30 minutes of light to spare.
Over all this was a very neat run with spectacular wilderness scenery. The river moves to along very quickly which makes it hard to take in everything you are seeing. We did 40 miles in one day which I thought would be impossible. There are plenty of class II wave trains and every few minutes you are taking a wall shot that is reminiscent of baptism rapid on the salt. The tree strainers are what make this river most challenging and hazardous. We had a lot of fun and will be running The San Frisco again when we have a chance, hopefully taking a little more time where we can enjoy it better. The camping was great and your chances of seeing another human being and next to none. This is a very enjoyable river to run but is littered with a lot of hazards and is incredibly remote and rugged if you do get into trouble.