Gila Box RNCA is located just a few miles north east of Safford, Az and protects the Gila River and some of its tributaries. It is administered by the BLM, and allows both dispersed camping, river floats, and a couple of established campgrounds.
The access road turns to gravel after a short while, but it is in really good condition. The road is, how shall we say – interesting! It is mostly a narrow, one lane road, with a number of very steep sections and some tight hairpin corners, and many of the steeper sections have been hard surfaced. With careful navigation, any size rig should have no trouble, but beware a couple of branches that may not clear a rig over 13 feet. Even the Wheeling It ‘Beast’ should make it, with care! There are a couple of riverside day use areas on the way in, which do not permit overnight camping. I decided to check out the Riverview campground, which overlooks the river, needless to say, and has about 15 sites, all spaced at least 50 yards apart. Even though it was a weekend, only 4 sites were occupied, plus a work crew that was checking fences in the area. Of course these four included the campers from hell!
My plans to sit outside by the fire overlooking the river, while listening to the owl and doves down by the river, watching the bats flit about were kiboshed. One of the campers, about 150 yards away, at 5:30 pm fired up their industrial generator at full throttle – and it ran continuously till about 4 or 5 am, when it likely ran out of fuel. Even sitting inside my rig with all windows and vents closed, watching a Nascar race on TV – I could still hear that bloody generator. Somehow, I managed to get some sleep that night. Luckily, the offenders departed the next day, or I would have. I just don’t get it. I have a (very quiet) generator, and have been boondocking full time, but haven’t felt the urge to use mine – since early December! The campground charges $5, and has garbage facilities and pit toilets, but it has excellent water available. There is even a lone tap on the roadside, miles from anywhere, which I used to re-fill on the way out.
The first evening was punctuated by the sound of falling rocks and boulders. After a bit of searching the cliffs on the far side of the river, the offenders were spotted!
There are plenty of great back roads to explore in the area. Al from the Bayfield Bunch would be in jeep heaven here. Many roads wind and fork up into hidden valleys and ridgelines, and some follow the creek bottoms with multiple water crossings. I counted about 15 crossings in one section I was on. Keeps the dust off your wheels and brakes anyway!
Upstream is the water source for Safford, so the miles of water pipe strung up on the cliff face is an attraction on its own.
Subject to flooding after rainstorms, some of the river bottom is covered in a huge layer of silt – which dries into some intriguing patterns.
Feeling a bit left out, Hailey has resorted to taking some ‘selfies’!