Tonto Creek - 02 (Rye Creek to Gun Creek)

Tonto Creek, Arizona, US


02 (Rye Creek to Gun Creek) (Rye Creek/ The Box)

Usual Difficulty III-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 38 fpm
Max Gradient 50 fpm

upper 1/3

upper 1/3
Photo by Craig Irwin taken 08/26/18 @ 450 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-09499000 400 - 2200 cfs III-IV(V) 01h05m 13 cfs (too low)

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!

Permit Information


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-08-27 04:02:05


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0canyon put inN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

canyon put in (Class N/A)

Rye Creek entering river right with Tonto Creek

Pinchers (Class N/A, Mile 3.0)

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
February 20 2008 (3947 days ago)
x (1)
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!
February 3 2008 (3964 days ago)
Chip NortonDetails
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.

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