Located 20 miles northeast of Safford in Graham and Greenlee counties, the 23,000-acre Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area contains four perennial waterways—the Gila and San Francisco rivers and Bonita and Eagle creeks—which are the lifeline to an extensive riparian ecosystem abounding with a diverse plant and animal community. A canyon section, known as the Gila Box, is composed of patchy mesquite woodlands, mature cottonwoods, sandy beaches, and grand buff-colored cliffs.
Cliff dwellings, historic homesteads, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and over 200 species of birds make this year-round watery desert refuge worth the short drive from Safford.
This region is a very special riparian ecosystem abounding with plant and animal diversity. Impressive Gila Conglomerate cliffs tower more than 1,000 feet above the Gila River, and bighorn sheep are commonly spotted.
Canoeing, kayaking, and rafting enthusiasts take advantage of the spring runoff to enjoy an easy to moderately difficult floating adventure down the Gila.
Numerous prehistoric and historical structures can be viewed. A network of primitive roads provides hours of backcountry adventure for four-wheel-drive and mountain bike trekkers.
Fees are charged at two developed campgrounds, Riverview and Owl Creek. Use of the Flying W Group Day Use Picnic Area is free of charge, but can be reserved for a fee. Those floating the river also pay a permit fee. Check with BLM for up-to-date road conditions. The conservation area is open year-round. Summer temperatures can be extremely hot, and some winter days quite cold. Flooding may occur during winter and summer rainy seasons, as well as during spring runoff.
For more information, go to www.blm.gov or call 928-348-4400.