Aravaipa Canyon - 2003

Aravaipa Creek is one of the last free-flowing streams in Arizona, and some say its beauty rivals the Grand Canyon. This year-round stream cut a path through the heart of the Galiuro Mountains while the mountains were still rising around it. The result is a steep-walled canyon in the heart of a huge massif in one of the most remote areas of southern Arizona.


Nature has erased all but a trace of the road ran through the canyon as recently as the 1970s. Today the canyon is protected under the Wilderness Act, and visitors must first obtain a permit from the Safford BLM office.


The peaks of the Galiuros are luminous gold tuff. They tower above the lower slopes of red rhyolite capped with a layer of white caliche. Lime green cottonwoods line the banks of Aravaipa Creek.


During my first trip to the canyon in January 2003, I learned that it's much more efficient to walk in the stream than to pick your way along the bank. For the return trip in November, 2003, we got an early start and came prepared with river shoes and dry sacks.


About 1-1/2 hours from the trailhead we came to the narrows, where the only way up is through chest-deep water.


We continued about four miles up the canyon to the confluence with Virgus Canyon. The sun finally cleared the canyon walls at noon, and we enjoyed an hour of sunshine until it slipped behind the cliffs once again.


Though the weather has turned cool, that cold beer at the end of the trail still tasted good!