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Difficulty III-IV(V)
Length 5 Miles
Flow Range 550 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 13.7 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 08/27/2018 4:02 am

River Description

Tonto Creek is an Arizona classic gorge! And Monsoon dependent.

Minimum flow: 400 CFS  /  Maximum flow: +/- 6000 CFS

Tonto Creek makes for an interesting ramble through the desert into a colorful gorge. 

Putting in at Rye Creek confluence with Tonto Creek is the easiest way to do a day section of this unique Arizona Monsoon offering. Leave Flagstaff in the morning and be home for dinner. Willows, big boulders in the river and colorful mini gorges. Pretty fun!


Original Write Up:(to preserve until 2019)

THE RUN: The put-in for this run starts on Rye Creek. From the start it's shallow and overrun with brush, then becomes a micro creek with bedrock, and often covered with cattle fences, so take caution. This is a fun run when it is running.
Usually doesn't run unless it is in the monsoon season (fall) or in a heavy run-off. This is a classic Class III run with a creekboat feel. At high water this is a class 5 and pretty demanding. In 1993 Wesley Hall died here, after a long swim, and the creek was flooding (extremely high).
There are a bunch of boulder gardens, and a few strainers hanging over the shoreline that you have to look out for. About halfway through this run powerlines cross overhead, and it is a good idea to eddy-out river left to scout the biggest drop on the creek. The drop, often called The Gauntlet or Pinrock, is about an 8-ft. tounge that is very constricted, with a sticky hole at the bottom. The drop kind of goes in this narrow canal and is very aerated, lots of fun, and you go deep!

About a mile before the takeout, it's worth stopping on river right to check out Gold Creek and take a short hike up to an amazing waterfall. 
After that there are your usual boulder drops and a few sticky pourovers, that always surprises the unaware boater. Overall definitely worth doing, especially if you are an AZ ELF BOATER. (Extremely Low Flow).
-Cody Howard
This is also added....note: That Tonto is one of AZ best day runs, added safety is a must!

Rapid Descriptions

canyon put in

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Rye Creek entering river right with Tonto Creek


Class - N/A Mile - 3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The rapid known to some as the Gauntlet appears after powerlines cross overhead. Eddy left usually and scout the pinch of the river and its unusual hydraulics.


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11 years ago

We ran the box with a group of three at 1900 cfs. The water was strong and at that level there isn't a good eddie to get out and scout the drop. If you run at this level run the drop after the powerlines to the left. There are a lot of keeper holes and very few places to recover in the box. Great short run though and it will keep you on your toes.

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12 years ago

We ran the box at about 850-900 on 2/17/2008 from Rye Creek. We didn't encounter any barbed wire. We had some good surfing (front only) about 100 yards after the confluence of Rye and Tonto. The canyon was very beautiful. 2 things about the Put-in: 1. There was not a gate to go through 2. It is about 2-3 miles from Jake's Corner. Take a right 50 yards before the one lane bridge that goes over rye creek. Take that road about 1/8 of a mile to a dirt pullout on your left (before private land-looking gate.) and hike down to Rye Creek. Enjoy!

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Chip Norton
12 years ago

We ran The Box at 500 cfs yesterday and found it to be a friendly intermediate run with no Cl. IV. Due to the narrow nature of the gorge in the middle section, it is apparent that higher flows would clearly increase the degree of difficulty and hazard. It is a beautiful, although short, run and can be done in a few hours if one puts in at Rye Creek.

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description


From Jakes Corner, take the dirt road (#184) directly accross the 188 from the bar (you will see a huge tree in front of trailer homes) for about 2.7 miles.This road becomes quite the muddy mess after a good rain event, especialy the last  stretch, and requires 4wd with some clearance. When you start heading downhill and can see the Rye Creek drainage on the left take a right at the fork in the road. Shortly thereafter you will see a gate and enough space to park a handful of vehicles. A short hike down hill past the gate bring you to Rye Creek (remember to close the gate behind you).

The take-out is located about 2.7 miles down Highway 188 from Jake's Corner. When heading SE on the 188, after a long downhill, make a left onto an unmarked dirt road. There are several parking options along this road. Make sure to spot powerlines and saguaros as reference to where you leave your vehicle. high clearance 4wd will bring you closer to the creek.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1993-01-15 n/a Fatality High Water Read More



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Tonto National Forest Draft Plan Open for Public Comment (AZ)

Kestrel Kunz

The Tonto National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan for the first time since 1985. On December 13, 2019 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on March 12, 2020. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read on to hear about the public meetings that are happening this week!


Kestrel Kunz


Thomas O'Keefe


Craig Irwin


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1208062 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1201854 02/14/13 Thomas O'Keefe photo changed
1208493 08/26/18 Craig Irwin 201808260
1189920 06/27/07 n/a n/a
1210288 08/26/18 Craig Irwin 22
1210289 08/26/18 Craig Irwin 23
1210290 08/27/18 Craig Irwin 99