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Old 04-26-2010   #1
rg5hole's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 450
Gila River NM TR 4/2010

We drove from Durango after work on Friday to get this rare flowing river and I have a few things to say to add to the New Testament. We did the lower box section that is billed as 18 miles, class III (IV-), four stars (our flow was 700cfs, high water).

First of all (sorry Evan and Cutch though I am sure you did not write the beta on this section) there is no class IV or IV-, the run we saw was barely class III. The run is 20 miles according to gps. The road listed for the put in is the only road out there with no sign, and you have to take 2 other roads to get to it from the highway so it does not pop out at you. Onto the TR...

As it rarely runs and to check another river off we jumped in the car...10 hours later from Durango we get to the put in. After paddling for what seemed to be much to long (7 miles of virtually flatwater with not very appealing scenery) we took lunch. Shortly thereafter jumped into the boats and the walls finally started to rise and eventually gorged out. The granite is white and orange and we all agreed reminded us of Rockwood box in character without the whitewater. The whitewater was likened to low water brown's canyon, even easier than that actually and contrary to the guide there are plenty of eddies and the water is actually pool drop in style. After enjoying the scenery of the gorge for about 6 miles it opens up into an old lake bed type place with high sandy banks (similar to the confluence of lake mead/powell) but the current keeps rolling. About 6/7 hours later you run into the only bridge/road for the next 40 miles.

Then we get to the take out. This is where the scenario goes even more awry. First, our shuttle crew thought the drive was only 8 hours and they are obviously not there. Second, and I shit you not, the "chain smoking atv driving local nicest people on the planet" never showed up...the tea party t-shirt wearin, freedom fighters for private land via stake claiming diesel truck driving people did. Apparently according to these folk we were on a multi million dollar (state funded/constructed mind you) bridge that they themselves own and we were now trespassing on. They kindly escorted us the hell out of their fine Red Rock community only to leave our asses in the desert with no water or civilization in sight. The situation never got heated, and I am summarizing the details but in retrospect this was some bullshit. Anyway, after a clear spring night in the cold ass desert our shuttle finally arrived after their 16 hour excursion and we proceeded to run their shuttle for their days journey down the same stretch.

I guess I can sum it up if you didn't get the gist from above...this run is not recommended. If brown's canyon can earn a 4th star this run does not deserve 1/2 of that, even with a magic wand that transported you there, ran your shuttle, and chilled your Ska beers at the take out.

I've never boated before, but I have posted a lot on Mountain Buzz!
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Old 04-26-2010   #2
Mad Scientist/Creeker
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 803
Thanks 5hole for the TR and the beta update... and yes neither of us have paddled that section. Officially demoted to 1.5 stars. Sorry you had to paddle it to find out our beta was unreliable and the source will be beaten severely...
Just as a side note here, Cutch and I are amped to hear all of your corrections, bitches and other comments as we are planning to revise the New Testament over the next couple of years. Post stuff here, as we'll usually catch it or, preferably at the new Facebook page we set up specifically for this purpose here Welcome to Facebook | Facebook

Evan Stafford
Cub boater: "What do the spiders mean?" Old fart boater: "Trust your intuition." CRCII
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Old 04-27-2010   #3
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,302
Editor's note strongly taken. For note, I believe you are talking about the Middle Box of the Gila in our book, not the lower box. I as well have been trying to check this one off the list. That was the beta we had from a few years ago. Interestingly enough I had an entirely different source tell me this year that it was like a mini-westwater. Sorry to hear that you had such a different experience... As for the class III (IV-) rating, I think we only put the IV- in because we had multiple reports that there was real whitewater, and we didn't want to be accused of sandbagging in case there was any tree dodging.

As Evan said, would you please post a copy of this TR to our facebook page?
Kyle McCutchen
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Old 04-27-2010   #4
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
thanks for the beta, I was extremely close to doing the same thing earlier this season. sorry to hear it wasn't worth it, but glad you went down for the exploration, and Evan, thanks for the link to the facebook page.
GARNA’s mission is to foster stewardship of the resources of the greater Arkansas River region through education, volunteerism and experiences.
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Old 04-27-2010   #5
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 79
Middle Box of Gila

So I was part of this group who arrived late at 11:45pm to find our three friends huddled in the desert, listening to the coyotes howling in the nearby distance.

I'd like a add a few things. First, I totally agree that the river should be rated as class III. There was one move where a large boulder blocks the entrance forcing you to enter on the right and perhaps at high enough flows it can get to a IV- rating. At the level we ran it, over 500 cfs nothing was more difficult than class III, and I'd give it a mellow class III.

The box section is beautiful and for anyone into birding this section should rate highly. I saw many birds that I had never seen before and personally enjoyed the trip. Plus the water is warm, a nice change from the rivers running in most of the area now. From Durango we put on 1308 driving miles for 18 miles of paddling. Quite the ratio!

So if you're seeking a true adventure for the whitewater then the Gila ain't the place. But it would be a nice place to take some rather newbies and even spend a night in the box.


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Old 04-27-2010   #6
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 450
Yes Cutch it was "middle box". I was tempted to call it "our box" like the locals do who own it, and everything surrounding it, including the water flowing through it, and the sunlight shining down on it, oh and "if it ever rains we own that too"!

I want to be clear about a few things, one is that I knew you guys didn't write this as your directions and descriptions are rarely this far off. Alas though, I do not mean to poke at the person who did write it because things do change, like perhaps the FR 809 signs were up last time Gila ran and since the psychotic diesel hippies arrived they may have taken them? Thank you both for providing me with such an awesome script to power through my sporting adventures. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Also, we were as cordial as possible to the unhappy locals, lots of sirs, ma'ams and "I do not want to impose" we didn't even argue while driving out to the desert to be dropped off for bone scattering coyotes. Had I had doubts that our shuttle (M2) was not coming we perhaps would have been shot b/c that shit would have went a different way right from the start. I did try to explain easements to them as well, and tried to break it to them as subtly as possible that they actually do not own the bridge.

All in all it was an adventure. I would describe the put in as "south on hwy 180 from cliff turn right and drive along the river, stay right at dirt road (fr 809) that ends at the well signed bird sanctuary/put in. ***(3 stars)

Hopefully Rez072 and I will have a description of the 100+ mile wilderness section of the Blue River for your new, new testament!
I've never boated before, but I have posted a lot on Mountain Buzz!
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Old 04-27-2010   #7
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Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
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On March 20th - 23rd 6 friends and I, and 2 13' rafts, floated the Wilderness Stretch around 900cfs, (big for the run). The only hazards were downed trees (LOTS!!) and direct 90 turns with all the current going into a rock face. The whitewater was minimal II+ with the only hard moves (in a raft loaded down with enough gear for the summer) being the 90 turns. Super pretty stretch!

We were planning on running straight through to the middle box as it said it was more whitewater but when talking to multiple locals at the put-in they all said there could be barb-wire across the river; and with the water being so high it could be under the water...So after long talks during the Wilderness strech we bailed on the Middle and took out at the town of Gila, as hope to catch a ride to the take-out of the Middle box in Red Rock. We found some nice locals who owned the land around the bridge, but NOT the bridge, they kindly drove us to our car for a mear 60 dollars round trip (from Gila to Red Rock) for about 3hrs. We had 7 people with us so it was not a pricey cost for a good ride.

We also talked to local river rats about the middle box and they said at flows above 1000cfs it gets a feel (current wise) of westwater; since it was a tight gorge as well. If we were in plastic I probably would have opt for the middle box too. Not too sure about their beta on that stretch as they said the Gila was class III at this level, maybe, but for sure not in a kayak.

I think our shuttle from the Wilderness Stretch put-in to Red Rock and back (with lunch stop) was around 7 hrs...I'm not sure how, from Gila or near it to Red Rock, it could have taken so long to run shuttle...

As we were loading up the trucks at our "private" take-out at the only bridge in between Gila and Cliff, a sheriff rolled up on us asking if we were putting in or taking out; and warned us that the Park Rangers were telling people not to do the middle box because of high water and possibilities of strainers. We told him we were getting out and asked if this was an okay spot. He said, "In the state of New Mexico, EVERY bridge along a highway or road is public and most are made with gates to allow fishermen down to the river." I personally didn't get to see the take-out of the Middle Box, but I'd bet its not private and those yocals were just yelling to start fire.

Not sure if this will help, Gila definitely got a good season this year, not that I'm a local, we all came from F.R., CO.
+ pUn-JaB +
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Old 04-28-2010   #8
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,302
Thanks for sharing cooldork. Any photos of the wilderness section?
Kyle McCutchen
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Old 04-28-2010   #9
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 79
Getting to Gila Middle Box put in

Just in case you want to get to the put in, here is the beta:

Going south out of Cliff turn right onto Bill Evans Lake Road. Stay on this road for approximately 3 miles and veer right onto a dirt road called Newby Road. If you stay on Bill Evans Lake Road you will come to the lake after about a mile or so. Once on Newby Road becomes FS 809 which is what is described in the book. After about 6 total miles from 180 you will come to an area with a sign saying "New Mexico Bird Trail". Take the right and it'll take you down to the river for the put in.


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Old 04-28-2010   #10
Divide, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 38
Interesting reads. I ran the lower Gila, self-support, in '85 or '86, w/my beau, Gary B. (aka Sapce).
My recollection, w/ map support, is we put in south of Cliff, took out near Red Rocks. I remember we went thru Lordsburg. We met to old-timers, brothers, who owned a lot of ranch land. Arranged a shuttle, and they met us at the take out, next day.

Lovely granite mini-canyon. Our bust was cfs was very low, like 250-300. But a really cool kayak run. Cl 2-3 for sure. Rattle snakes at the take out. Hot, in late March.

The old-timer had a refrigerator in his yard, FULL of Anazasi pottery shards. They said they had water troughs for their cattle, all over the rugged mountains They have found many ancient Indian ruins & dwellings in this area. Really cool stories.
He had a huge garden & worked using a cane. I wonder if these guys are even alive today. They were gracious and very intriguing. I will always remember this trip, as the 2 old-timers showed me people are genuinely nice. That was my experience on the lower Gila Box. Jill Tipton

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gila, gila box

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