Gila River (( ; O'odham [Pima]: Gila
Akimel) is a tributary of the
River, 650 miles (1,044 kilometers) long, in the
southwestern states of New
Mexico and Arizona.
River has its source in western New Mexico, in Sierra County on the western slopes of Continental Divide in the Black Range. It flows southwest through the Gila National Forest and the Gila Cliff
Dwellings National Monument, then westward into Arizona, past the
town of Safford,
Arizona, and along the southern slope of the Gila Mountains in Graham
County. It emerges from the mountains into the valley
southeast of Phoenix,
Arizona, where it crosses the Gila River Indian Reservation
as an intermittent stream due to large
of Phoenix, the river bends sharply southward, temporarily, along
the "Gila Bend Mountains", and then it sharply bends westward again
near the town of Gila Bend, Arizona. It flows southwestward through the Gila Mountains in Yuma
County, and finally it flows into the Colorado at Yuma, Arizona.
The Gila River and its main tributary, the Salt River
, would both be perennial
streams carrying large volumes of water, but irrigation and
municipal water diversions turn both into usually dry rivers. Below
Phoenix to the Colorado River, the Gila is usually either a trickle
or completely dry, as is also the lower Salt from Granite Reef Diversion Dam
downstream to the Gila, but both rivers can carry large volumes of
water following rainfall. The natural mean flow of the Gila would
be 6070 cubic feet per second at its mouth into the Colorado River,
second only in volume of Colorado River tributaries to the Green
River. The Gila River a long time ago was navigable by boats from
its mouth to near the Arizona - New Mexico border. The width varied
from 150 to with a depth of two to .
Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, the Gila River served as a part of
the border between the United States and Mexico until the
Gadsden Purchase (1853) soon
extended American territory well south of the Gila.
confluence of the Gila with the Colorado river was also used as a
reference point for the southern border of California.
major dam on the Gila River is Coolidge Dam southeast of Globe, Arizona, which forms the San Carlos Lake. The Painted Rock Dam crosses the Gila near Gila Bend, although the river is a transient one at that
A number of minor diversion
have been built on the river between the Painted Rock Dam
and the Coolidge Dam, including the Gillespie Dam
which was breeched during a
flood in 1993.
Gila River, including the entire length within New Mexico, is a free-flowing one.
Recent efforts to
allow for damming or otherwise diverting this stretch have met with
stiff political resistance, having been named as one of the
nation's most endangered rivers due to the threat of damming. New
Mexico governor Bill Richardson
promised to block any such attempt during his term, and he has even
considered pushing for a statutory prohibition against any such
projects on the state's portion of the river.
Gila Akimel O'odham
A band of Pima (autonym "Akimel O'odham", river people), the Gila
Akimel O'odham (Gila River People), have lived on the banks of the
Gila River since before the arrival of Spanish explorers. Popular
theory says that the word Gila
was derived from a Spanish
contraction of Hah-quah-sa-eel, a Yuma Indian word meaning "running
water which is salty".
Their traditional way of life (himdagĭ
, sometimes rendered
in English as Him-dak) was and is centered at the river, which is
considered holy. Traditionally, sand from the banks of the river is
used as an exfoliant when bathing (often in rainstorms, especially
during the monsoon).
Middle Fork of the Gila River, SW New
- Paved access
- Gravel access
- Dirt access
- Primitive parking area
The Gila River has also been known as:
- Apache de Gila
- Brazo de Miraflores
- Hah-quah-sa eel
- Hela River
- Jila River
- Rio Azul
- Rio Gila
- Rio de las Balsas
- Rio del Nombre Jesus
- Rio del los Apostoles
- Zila River
- Xila River
- Keli Akimel
Gila River at U.S.