- Mar 25, 2017 at 3:31 pm #3459414
Here is a quick trip report on a packrafting loop I just did in the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico. (pics later if I can actually resize them successfully)
By the numbers the trip was as follows: River flow: 500cfs at Gila throughout trip
Distance (time): 46 miles in raft split up into 39 (10 hours on water), 2(1 hr), and 5 mile (2 hr) segments; 31 miles walking in 29 miles (13 hours moving) and 2 mile segments.
Days: I took 5 nights to do this on soft feet so I slept in late and made camp early. Could be done by someone much fitter in 2 or 3 days .
Weight: 10 lbs base; 10 lbs packraft kit; 10 lbs consumables.
The runoff on the Gila came slightly early this year starting with a rain on snow event that spiked the small river to 9000 cfs on valentines day and flows have held at floatable levels ( anything above 250 cfs) ever since. This perood of water conicided with an earlier yhan normal spring break from teaching so i packed the backpack and packraft and headed south for a week floating and hiking.
I launched near the village of Gila Hot Springs in the “center” the Gila Wilderness at the Grapevine campground/ put-in where the east fork meets the joined flow of the west and middle forks of the Gila River. Weather was sunny and 80 degrees. I inflated the Alpacka yak with whitewater spray deck and strapped the 4400 Porter on the deck and launched. I wore a type 3 pfd with a real river knife.as my luxury item.
2 days of class 2 Rapids and dodging lots of wood in the water brought me to my take-out at the mouth of Turkey Creek. I then hiked north for 2 days following the rough and storm damaged trail 155 the length of Turkey Creek on the first day. Then over the saddle near Granite Peak and down the easy trail through the parks of Little Creek, trail 161. At EE corral I followed a wide stock trail 3 miless north over a ridge and down EE Canyon on trail 833 to the west fork of the Gila River. After a night of light sleet and snow I floated a mile or 2 to the Cliff Dwellings National Monument where the canyon tightened and constant portaging around wood and an audience of Rangers led me to decide to deflate and walk the 2 miles of road to the visitors center where the middle forks flow would join the west forkside and yield 5 miles of floating back to the truck ( no portaging needed in this section for anything smaller than a raft).
At the end of the trip it was surreal floating back into the site of my trip launch days earlier, from up-stream! Joys of a packraft and trails that connect.Mar 25, 2017 at 3:36 pm #3459416
To clarify segments were as follows:
2.5 day float/2 day hike/1 hour float/1 hour road walk/2 hour float…… green Chile cheeseburgersMar 25, 2017 at 5:04 pm #3459434
Gif of the Gila
Images in order are: fire under a sycamore, canoe wrap, soaking riverside below murtock’s hole, cleaning up at the confluence with turkey creek, incredible vegetaton diversity camped below an Arizona Sycamore canopy, Skeleton Ridge through burn area, upper Turkey Creek granite creek bed, first glimpse of West fork of Gila, easy walking in Little Creek.Mar 26, 2017 at 8:00 am #3459530
Chad LorenzBPL Member
@chadlLocale: Teton Valley, Wydaho
Looks like a great trip! Thanks for the CFS notes as well.Mar 26, 2017 at 11:04 am #3459578
here’s the latest hydrograph from the usgs site ato the downstream end of the run near the town of Gila. The spring run-off (only real boatable season) seems to be tapering off:
Best gear: Loved my houdini pants, basically living in them for sun protection and bushwacking through manzanita on the overgrown sections of Turkey Creek as well as climbing through 200+ blow downs of live pine and alder near miller springs cabin turn off in Turkey Creek.
Worst gear: constant cold breeze through the Jacksrbetter A-frame tarp each night (canyon drafts despite packraft, Porter, and 2 large OPsacks as wind deflectors +site selection = way too much hassle) and terrible sag of spinnaker when wet… girlfriend even wondered why I wasn’t taking the Gatewood or Oware alpha mid on this trip…. argghh, I wonder same thing now, too.
Pfd is a size small MTD Journey (16 Oz) before NRS quick release steel blunt tip knife and a shoulder-strap size small bag with whistle, foil blanket, lighter, 1 liter water bag, Nunn hydration tabs, and Spot device just in case I had to hike out after losing the boat wearing only a pfd. Total pfd trip weight: 1.7 lbsMar 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm #3459598
Another bump …..because despite paying $7 for the posting privileges, I still can’t edit any posts after the first one (I know about that qwerk)… [edit: nm, grey scale next to blue hyperlink text is clickable]
Snotel 757 (silver creek divide) is the one I followed to predict flow in addition to usgs sites at both ends of the wilderness run. Snow levels dropped from 9 to 0″ during my trip.
Anyway, that pfd is MTI brand, not mtd. REI bought. One of the lighter legal type III sold, I’ve read on here.
Here is a screen shot of the hiking route in red (map shows final section plotted 1 canyon easthma of my actual route down EE Canyon. River section is roughly a backwards capital “L”. A shorter, less watered, and more sun exposed alternative hiking route to the same EE canyon would go through miller springs cabin, brushy Mtn, and little turkey creek. …..
Has anybody hiked/packrafted this route or any other connecting segments in the wilderness sections of the Gila River and forks? *(I’ve seen the report of packrafting the Gila box in AZ connecting on segments of the GET near Morenci.)Mar 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm #3459637
Chad LorenzBPL Member
@chadlLocale: Teton Valley, Wydaho
Looks like a nice light setup. I skip the polycro when boating and just sleep on my raft: a small square of camp towel to dry it off and you have a very durable groundsheet. I leave some air in it also, such that it wraps upward a bit and helps alleviate drafting issues with the quilt.Mar 26, 2017 at 9:17 pm #3459709
Good advice, Chad. After leaving the raft in the sun to dry, I was surprised at how much smaller/easier the rolling process was when the material was warm and supple vs. the milder Temps I’m used to rolling the boat up on the Colorado plateau.
Also, important note that unlike most western rivers there is no permit/lottery system on the Gila. Type II pfd (includes inflatables) are legal. And no requirement for fire pan, extra paddle, or groover make this a packraft friendly river despite wildly seasonal flow levels.
Also, flood damage is result of hundreds of thousands of acres recently burning (past decade) across all drainages I passed through on this trip. Cairns reliably mark both sides of eroded side canyon alluvial deposits across Trail 155 (some sections 100 yd of rubble across trail)
Joy of meeting the west fork of Gila after a couple days on my feet.Mar 27, 2017 at 8:00 pm #3459889
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Looks like a great trip. Thank you for sharing.Apr 3, 2017 at 11:13 pm #3461393
nunatak down gearBPL Member
Nice! Putting this one away until next year, really want to do this or similar down there. 8 hr drive from here.Apr 4, 2017 at 4:06 pm #3461500
@roamer, 6 hours south for me too, puts many other closer southwestern rivers on the list higher than the Gila, but the solitude and warm weather in early spring down there is hard to beat.
The river is still holding packraftable water-level (see hydrograph below) but this year’s runoff has tapered much slower than runoff in most recent years (snow pack was more water laden than normal). For context, the minimum flow I have floated (200 cfs) was in a hardshell kayak and had to drag boat a few times. Not sure if the packrafting would be efficient at that low of a flow, but maybe. Also, I waited 4 years for this trip when finally the runoff coincided with my time off. Packraft also saved the $200 shuttle that used to be arranged through employees at Gila Hike and Bike in Silver City, when doing this run in conventional boats.Apr 4, 2017 at 6:43 pm #3461538
nunatak down gearBPL Member
We have a trip planned starting next Sunday to another area. Keeping an eye on the graph to see if we should change plans to the Gila.
No dragging at all on your trip?Apr 4, 2017 at 7:37 pm #3461554
I wouldnt do it if trends continue.
I dragged in numerous places where the main channel went under a strainer tree, and the alternate channels or edge of the main channel had just enough flow for me to float above shallow rocks and around the obstacle. Probably 5 mainstream strainers in the 39 mile wilderness run. That was at 500 cfs.
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