Ran Kelvin down to Cochran 08 June 2020 at 500cfs. Bank erosion is a problem, most likely caused by the number of cattle in the area. Many more trees have fallen into and across the river in the last 2 weeks. The 80cfs increase over 2 weeks ago has made many strainers much more of a challenge. The current is substantially more pushy and the space between water and branch has shrunk. We had one flip when a branch got stuck through the arm hole of a PFD while attempting to navigate a strainer thus pulling the paddler out and flipping the boat in the process. Luckily, once the paddler's full weight was on the branch it broke and set him free. We ran this section with a car shuttle. We dropped the 1st car at 8:20am, on the water at 9:45am, at the takeout car around 2:15pm, and after washing all of the sticks, spiders, and leaves out of the boats, we were back to the put in car around 3:30pm.
Ran most of Kelvin to Cochran 20 May 2020. Parking at Cochran, it is easy to cross the water at ~420cfs (I am 6’ tall and water was just below the groin at its deepest) and gain the Arizona Trail. About 1 mile past Walnut Canyon, the Arizona Trail overlaps with the Grand Enchantment Trail, which runs all the way up to Kelvin. It is possible to access the river at several points along the trail between Cochran and Kelvin. Some options are Walnut Canyon, which drops you at the river 4 miles above Cochran, and an unnamed drainage just upstream from “The Spine” is another. The latter allows for putting in 4.75 miles below Kelvin (or just over 8 miles upstream from Cochran), which is what our party did. The description below is described by river miles below Kelvin.
The water flows at a respectable pace and there are no slow pools. 1 swift water section shortly below where we put in appears to be Class II. Our party chose the wrong channel (the left channel, which is very bony) and missed the most exciting rapid of the day (to clarify, the rapid is at the end of the right channel and not visible before the split). The 8+ mile float took us roughly 4 hours including at least 1 hour of working to clear a blockage.
There are countless sweepers and 2 river wide blockages. The first blockage is a low tree branch at RM7.75, which in our packrafts we were able to force ourselves under at 420cfs. Any higher and this would not be an option. The second is a fallen willow on one side with a fallen tamarisk on the other that collects driftwood in the center at RM8.9. This was the biggest challenge of our day. While one person scouted a portage, the other went to work with a folding saw on the tamarisk. After 30 minutes, neither person had achieved their goal. The riverbank is too thick with mesquite and tamarisk and the fallen tamarisk had too many submerged branches that prevented the sawn off branches from floating downstream. The focus then changed from the tamarisk to the willow. We were able to quickly remove the upward facing branches allowing us to float down to the half submerged trunk, “beach” ourselves on it, then portage over the top of the tree. The rest of the vegetation we were able to float through or under with relative ease.
From RM4.75 to Cochran, we encountered 2 barbed wire fences across the river. The first, at RM8, is a non-barbed cable high over the river with a singe strand of barbed wire hanging below its center collecting debris. There is a long straightaway leading up to this hazard and is easy to spot. Unless you’re not paying any attention and hit the single barbed wire strand in the center of the river, this doesn’t pose much danger. The second barbed wire fence is at RM9.25. It is at a section of river where the channel splits. It is easy to see the fence across the left channel before the split. Our party chose the right channel despite there being obviously less water and quickly realized the fence is across both channels. It is easy to get out and portage here since the fence has fallen flat at the bank at the channel is very bony. There are remnants of rusty old barbed wire fence on the ground in this area so pay attention to footing. Aside from the low hanging vegetation typical of this reach, the remaining 4 miles to Cochran are uneventful compared to the aforementioned hazards.
Ran Cochran to Ashurst Hayden 13 May 2020
From Cochran, it is 8 river miles to the Ashurst-Hayden diversion. The current is steady with no pools (we ran it at 400cfs and were off the water in 2.5hrs). There are no rapids to speak of nor does it appear any would form at higher flows. We encountered countless sweepers but none that posed any hazzard. On several occasions the river split into multiple channels but most of the time it was possible to see all the way through to where they confluenced. There were no river wide strainers (at least not in the channels we chose). There is 1 barbed wire fence across the rivere immediately after the railroad tressle bridge (3.25 miles downstream of Cochran). It is possible to get around it by hugging the bank on river left. Bonus points to anybody who gets it out of there. Treat this as a wilderness run and carry a folding saw should any trees fall. Except for a very small number of spots, the banks are completely overgrown and exiting would be extremely challenging.
Any time we checked the depth it always seemed to stay around 3 to 4 feet. This could definitely go at lower flows. Higher flows would only shorten the trip. Really high flows could turn otherwise casual branches and sweepers into serious hazzards.
This run is quick with nice desert views. The 30 mile shuttle from Whitlow Ranch Road around to Cochran Road may not be worth it to some for the length of the run. Putting in at Kelvin makes it more worthwhile.
Alternatively, it is possilble to park on the North side off of Price Station Road and hike to the put in opposite Cochran as we did with our packrafts. The first 3.25 miles of Price Station Rd go quick. The next .75 miles is very overgrown and could use some work (we were racing the heat so did not spend the time to do any maintenance). From the end of Price Station Rd, it becomes necessary to cross the train tracks. DO NOT WALK ON THE TRACKS. The no tresspassing signs in this area are in reference to the railroad. There is a faint game trail the leads North up a gully and over a saddle. Continuing down into the next drainage and up over the next ridge drops you back down towards the river to regain a very well traveled dirt road. This road takes you through Coke Ovens and eventually down to the river crossing at Cochran. Be concious of private property. Although there were no signs across the road, there are several nailed to trees parallel to the road. There are also numerous bulls in the area. Most avoided us. 2 did not. Employing Alaskan Guide training and "being bigger than the bear (bull)", we eventually worked our way past.
Some posters are confused! Both Christmas and Winkelman are far above the (Kelvin) put-in for this stretch of river.
This section is Class I, some of the sections above Winkelman have some class II from about 500 cfs up until flood stage. Be sure to stop at the Nugget Bar in Winkelman, or if it is payday at the mine, (every other Friday) the General Kearny Inn, in Kearny is a must. Locals are friendly, be nice.
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Permits are not required for this reach.
A rare rest stop
on Gila @04. Kelvin to Ashurst-Hayden Dam
Upper Gila River
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