Difficulty I
Length 21 Miles
Gauge GILA RIVER AT KELVIN, AZ.
Flow Range 200 - 20000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours ago 611 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 06/11/2020 5:36 pm

River Description


This Reach of the Gila has an extremely remote feeling despite being 1.5 hours from Downtown Phoenix.  Putting in near the bridge in Kelvin, AZ, there are a little over 21 tree filled and barbed wire strewn river miles to navigate before reaching the Ashurst-Hayden Diversion Dam near Florence, AZ.  The current remains constant with no big standing pools.  The river often meanders into 2 or sometimes 3 channels but it is quite easy for an experienced paddler to tell which one to take.  For the most part, it is possible to see through the overgrowth to where the channels rejoin.  Pristine views of mountains and giant saguaros are worth the trip although are often overshadowed by the tamarisk choking the river banks.  Luckily, almost all of the strainers are either tamarisk or what looks like some sort of ash tree and not the very spikey mesquite that are also common along the banks in the area. 

Points of Interest/ Landmarks (described as River Miles below Kelvin):

2.25: Railroad Trestle
4.5: Power Lines
5.5: Biggest rapid of the entire run (straight forward class II).  The river splits just above a 90º bend to the right.  The right channel obviously holds most of the water but it is only possible to see downstream through the left channel due to the bend.  This is the only channel our party has taken on this reach without being able to see through to the bottom.  Taking the right channel, the current pools up just enough after the bend but before the drop to square up and take a good line.  Paddlers looking for some splash can run the meat on river right, those a little more timid can skirt most of the waves by hugging the center island and then swinging into the water coming down the left channel. There is some brush hanging over the left bank after the channels confluence but not before the end of the wave train so don't stray too far left.
7.75: The first (as of June 2020) serious river wide blockage. Some work was done in attempt to clear the large branch hanging 6" above the water but underwater hazards remain. From this point on, the amount of vegetation over and in the river is thicker and more frequent.   
8: Barbed wire. The first of 3 pokey, metal hazards.  An extremely thick cable is strung across the river 4' or so above the water with a single strand of barbed wire dangling below it in the center of the watercourse.
8.75: Complete channel blockage. Some attempts to clear this have been made and it is now possible to bump over a log on river right above 400cfs.  Portaging here is a challenge.  If water is too low to float over the log, the best bet is to portage over it (getting out on top of the log) and not around it due to the thick overgrowth along the banks.
9.25: Barbed wire.  The river again splits into 2 channels.  From above the split, it's easy to see the left obviously has barbed wire across it and is choked with vegetation.  The right is very bony.  After a good 20-30yds bumping down the right channel, the barbed wire appears again.  It is in a spot where taking out on the central island is quite easy.  The fence is not in total disrepair but is loose enough that crossing it, even with an inflatable, is not an issue.  Be aware of the remnants of an older barbed wire fence on the ground in this area.  Watch your step and don't put an inflatable down without looking closely first.
13.25: Cochran RAP. For a shorter day it is possible to start or end here.

(The following described as RM below Cochran)

3.25: Railroad Trestle (the photo above)
3.3: Last and most hazardous of the barbed wire.  A tight fence across the entire channel.  By sticking all the way river left, it is possible to float over (even in an inflatable) with flows above 400cfs.  It is unknown to this author what condition the fence is in below the water line here.  It could be non existent and passable at lower flows or it could be only inches below the water line and be very dangerous.  
3.4: Donnely Wash RAP
5.75: Box O Wash RAP
8.1: Ashurst Hayden Dam. Takeout to the South off of Whitlow Ranch Road or to the North off of Price Station Road.

Class: I (II)

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

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Ryan
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3 weeks ago

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.

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Ryan
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1 month ago

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.

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Ryan
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1 month ago

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.

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11 years ago

Some posters are confused! Both Christmas and Winkelman are far above the (Kelvin) put-in for this stretch of river.

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J. Douglas Sprouse
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11 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description


Put in is just upstream from the bridge in Kelvin at an obvious clearing. Do not park blocking vehicle access here.  Water tanker trucks have been seen refilling at this location and need access to the river.

Take out options are the end of Cochran Road, Donnely Wash, Box O Wash, Whitlow Ranch Road, or Price Station Road. Other options may exist above Cochran Road but the quality of road and vegetation lining the river bank may prove to be more trouble than it's worth to utilize them.

For a multisport adventure without shuttling a car, it is possible to leave a car off of Price Station Road near the Ashurst-Hayden Diversion Dam, hike the road upstream approximately 4 miles, cross the train tracks and continue over and across 2 ridges and a drainage to gain the Arizona Trail.  The AZT eventually overlaps the Grand Enchantment Trail and both continue on into Kelvin.  To hike and then float this entire reach would most likely be a multiday outing (25 terrestrial miles, 21 river miles).  

No Accident Reports

Alerts

       

News

article main photo

New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham Vetoes Gila Diversion Funding

4/10/2019
Hattie Johnson

In her campaign, newly elected Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham laid out a plan to end work on the Gila River Diversion Project. This past Friday she took great strides towards that promise by vetoing $1.698M in New Mexico Unit funding requested by the Interstate Stream Commission for Gila diversion planning and design.

article main photo

Speak Up NOW to Protect New Mexico’s Gila and San Francisco Rivers!

8/13/2018
Kestrel Kunz

SIGN THIS CITIZEN SUPPORT LETTER TO PROTECT THE GILA AND SAN FRANCISCO RIVERS IN NEW MEXICO BEFORE THIS FRIDAY! 

On July 18, a coalition of recreationists, landowners, and conservations groups, including American Whitewater, submitted a formal proposal to the offices of Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall to designate 453.9 miles in the Gila River Watershed under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The proposal includes the mainstem Gila River, the San Francisco River, and select major tributaries to the Gila River, and would protect these prized river segments for future generations. Now, we need everyone to let Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall know that we care about these rivers and their many values - whether you are a New Mexican resident, visitor, or river lover, your voice can make a difference here. 

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Kestrel Kunz

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Ryan

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Matt Muir

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1208046 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1208083 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1214931 05/14/20 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1215211 06/10/20 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1215213 06/10/20 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1215215 06/10/20 Ryan updated description
1215212 06/10/20 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1215214 06/10/20 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1215216 06/10/20 Ryan updated stats
1215235 06/11/20 Ryan updated image position
1215237 06/11/20 Ryan directions to the river
1189912 04/27/05 n/a n/a