Aravaipa Canyon


By: Ron Jones



Aravaipa Canyon is situated in Southeast Arizona, east of Phoenix and between Globe and Safford. The canyon is 11 miles long, was the first designated BLM Wilderness area, requires a permit for entry (BLM-Safford District, 425 East 4th Street, Safford, AZ 85546), and has a 3-day limit in the length of the visit.

Pat & Dean Acheson, Leora Stoler & I set up a car shuttle between our departure point at the west end of the canyon and the entrance point near Klondyke on the east. Here we were met by Steve and Debbie Smith and a friend of theirs. This car shuttle took approximately 4 hours.

Aravaipa Creek flows year-round, unusual for the Arizona desert. Prior to two enormous floods in the 1950's one could ride a horse or drive a wagon through the canyon (even drive a car most of the way) but great damage was done and the canyon route is now entirely class two with lots of boulder scrambling & more than one hundred stream crossings. The stream is home to the rare loach minnow and spikedace fish and the canyon supports coatimundis, coyotes, javelina, mule deer, mountain lions and bighorn sheep.

After meeting we explored the lower reaches of the Turkey Creek tributary, formerly an Indian camping and hunting area, and site of at least one Indian granary. We then backpacked down Aravaipa Creek. Within 60 seconds we were upon our first shallow mud stream crossing. Willow thickets and frequent stream crossings slowed our progress. We made only 1 1/2 miles the first afternoon and camped on a nice stream terrace just before a slight evening drizzle approached us. Plenty of wood was available for a campfire making our happy hour more complete.

The second day Steve's friend returned to the cars and the six of us waded and scrambled about 4 miles farther. The Hell Hole Canyon area has spectacular scenery and was the former Ranch site for the Salazar Family in the 19th century. Paisano Canyon was passed and a delightful mid day dip in very cold water was taken in a waterfall pool just inside Booger Canyon. Shortly beyond we watched at close hand a group of 5 or 6 bighorn rams and ewes with at least one lamb grazing on the north canyon wall. An inspiring sight! We camped near Javelina Canyon at an incredibly ant-infested site and enjoyed a pleasant rain shower accompanied by echoing thunder and lightning for much of the evening.

The third day we passed Hells Half Acre and Painted Cave Canyons to reach Dean & Pat's car at the west side parking area & ranger's home. (I later learned that Ed Abbey formerly worked at this station). We made the long 4+ hour shuttle through Globe to Klondyke and to the east parking area to conclude another successful desert canyon exploration. Join Steve & me on Auaust 27 through 30, 1989 for a 4-day trip in Havasupai Canyon.

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