Kayaking on the Gila River, a journey into the near wild

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Keep your eyes open. You may see something quite unexpected. Nina Crowder | Copper Basin News

By Nina Crowder

Copper Basin News

Kayaking in the Copper Corridor takes just a short journey for a day filled with fun, laughs, sight-seeing and exercise.

Just 20 miles from Mammoth to Winkelman off Highway 77, turn right to Winkelman Flats Park, where the park is free for day use. Park one vehicle here and then in a second vehicle with kayaks, continue north on Highway 77 for 3.2 miles, which will bring you to the Shores.

Or, if you feel adventurous, continue on Highway 77 for 6.7 miles from Winkelman Flats to Christmas. Either place enables you to put your kayaks in the Gila River and start your adventure.

As our kayaks were set in the water, the wildlife viewing started right away with mallard ducks just ahead that were startled and started flying. There are several spots in the river that seem like they are going to be white water rapids, but were actually rocks with the water pouring over them. Where many of the rocks were it was very shallow and we had to walk through some of those areas to keep from bottoming out on the kayaks.

From the Christmas use area to the Shores area, it was approximately 2.75 hours. From the Shores to Winkelman Flats was approximately 1.75 hours.

From the Shores to Winkelman Flats we were able to see two deer drinking from the river. The mallard ducks stayed with us throughout the day. There were many other birds including hummingbirds, red cardinals and sparrows. There were some good rapids and we had several wipe-outs throughout the day that kept our laughter up and kept us anticipating what was around the next corner of the river.

When the river splits it is necessary to select the route you feel is best. There is no particular way to tell which route will be better, just do your best and know that you may end up upside down in your kayak.

It is important that you don’t go the river alone as many people wipe out and get caught in the tree branches or tree roots that are along both sides of the river. Be sure to wear protective gear including life jackets and bring plenty of water to drink.

The Gila River is a major waterway through Arizona and generally runs year round. Lately with our temperatures close to 75 degrees and plenty of sunshine it’s a perfect time to try out the Gila River.

Winkelman Flat Park has an array of covered picnic tables, softball fields, children’s jungle gym area, an arena for horse activities and great places to camp. The time is right to get out and enjoy our Copper Corridor!

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