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The Gila River--Part 1

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Queen of the Walkabout

Joined: 15 Jan 2004
Posts: 1167

PostPosted: 6/22/2009, 4:39 pm    Post subject: The Gila River--Part 1 Reply to topic Reply with quote

A good start on my mission to float parts of the Gila River in my inflatable kayak. I put in at Kelvin and Brian drove the chase vehicle. I planned on taking out near the Ashhurst-Hayden Dam before Florence. The first part was a nice twisty run thru a small mountain range with lots of small riffles and some astute paddling to avoid being drug by the current under the tree limbs. The whole waterway was crowded with overhanging willow, cottonwood, etc. This was a nice introduction to gaining some more skills with the boat. No one else was on the waterway. In the morning there was nice shade on the river, and tolerable temps for this trip.
It felt like I was in a jungle, the riverside growth very thick. I pushed downstream a great blue heron, some ducks, had eagles fly over my head. I saw lots of turtles, quick in the water, evidence of beaver, and two sleek creatures that dived in that looked like river otters. Since my cursory research indicates the last confirmed river otters on the Gila in Az in 1953, have my doubts but they certainly weren't beaver.
Colorful little birds abounded, golden orioles, bright red and small blue birds with yellow heads. I saw a skunk coming to water, some deer, and some wild cows that bounded out of sight as soon as they saw me.
Where four wheel drive roads came to the river there was trash, the river was fairly clean except a few old tires. I passed under an ornate and huge railroad trestle bridge, and noted some unique rock work for the grade; unfortunately there was not a good area to pull off there.
I had three unavoidable tree encounters; the branches were fully stretched across a narrow section and one place I snuck thru a veil of green to confront deadfall in the river. Once I did roll the kayak, completely my fault because if I had scouted a bit I could have portaged easily. I ran this at about 300cfs, and did drag the boat in a few spots briefly.
I had two encounters with fishermen, a little bit hazardous because I almost clotheslined myself on the cast out lines. One place some intelligent person had strung barbed wire across the water way at a property line. I was able to float under the one remaining top wire no problem but at higher water this could be very dangerous. I wish I had some colorful flagging or wire cutters with me.
Brian met me for lunch under another railroad trestle. He had a great shade spot with a small open beach, and we hiked a little in the increasing heat. I wanted to go on past the north and south butte as it looked very interesting. He took a rough 4wd road to a wash to meet me on the other side. The float past this area was well worth it, great views, and a broadening garden like river bordered with green grass.
I decided to take out where Brian was, about 1-2 miles short of the dam but I wasn't sure of access to the take out. The drive back was very scenic with some amazing desert scenery.

Sidebar--on the way to the put in I almost ran over a baby skunk. We got it off the road into the shade of a Palo Verde and left, hoping mom would come back. On our way back we stopped to check the area. The little skunk was still there, very weak and dehydrated and half dead. We just couldn't leave him, gave him some water and put him in a box and took him home. We fed him diluted goats milk with an eye dropper. Many phone calls later and we took him to some volunteers for Southwestern Wildlife Rehab. He was soooo cute. Hopefully he will be ok and grow up a bit and get released back out there. Some trivia---four species of skunks in Arizona.

I had a great trip and would do this one again in a heartbeart. More kayak plans coming up.
You can rest when you're dead
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Joined: 05 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: 6/22/2009, 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

My mom had two pet skunks when she was growing up in Oklahoma. A neighbor boy gave her a burlap sack with two baby skunks in it. They had a momma cat with kittens so they put the skunks down and the cat adopted them, cleaning and nursing them. When they were about a year old they wandered off into the woods but she said they never did spray anyone at their house although occasionally one of the family's dogs would smell of skunk.
It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. -- Carl Sagan
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PostPosted: 6/23/2009, 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

The growth along the river is quite dense with few places to access the river. Most folks take out near the Coke Ovens where the old townsite of Cockran was located. Near the diversion dam the townsite of Price was located, several graves nearby. At one time it was a pretty cool place where the caretaker for the diversion dam lived. Did you use the the Florence Kelvin highway ? Some friends want to night ride on bicycle the road.
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