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The Gila River
Gila River
(/ˈhiːlə/; O'odham [Pima]: Keli Akimel or simply Akimel, Quechan: Haa Siʼil) is a 649-mile (1,044 km)[2] tributary of the Colorado River
Colorado River
flowing through New Mexico
New Mexico
and Arizona in the United States. The river drains an arid watershed of nearly 60,000 square miles (160,000 km2) that lies mainly within the U.S. but also extends into northern Sonora, Mexico. Indigenous peoples have lived along the river for at least 2,000 years, establishing complex agricultural societies before European exploration of the region began in the 16th century. However, Euro-Americans did not permanently settle the Gila River
Gila River
watershed until the mid-19th century. During the 20th century, human development of the Gila River
Gila River
watershed necessitated the construction of large diversion and flood control structures on the river and its tributaries, and consequently the Gila now contributes only a small fraction of its historic flow to the Colorado.[4] The historic natural discharge of the river is around 1900 cfs, and is now only 247 cfs. These engineering projects have transformed much of the river valley and its surrounds from arid desert to irrigated land, and supply water to over five million people that live in the watershed.

Contents

1 Geography 2 History 3 Dams and diversions 4 Recreation 5 Variant names 6 See also 7 References

7.1 Footnotes 7.2 Works cited

8 External links

Geography[edit] The Gila River
Gila River
has its source in western New Mexico, in Sierra County on the western slopes of Continental Divide
Continental Divide
in the Black Range. It flows southwest through the Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest
and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, then westward into Arizona, past the town of Safford. After flowing along the southern slope of the Gila Mountains in Graham County through a series of canyons, the Gila is impounded by Coolidge Dam
Coolidge Dam
in San Carlos Lake
San Carlos Lake
south of Peridot. It emerges from the mountains into the valley southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, where it crosses the Gila River Indian Reservation
Gila River Indian Reservation
as an intermittent stream due to large irrigation diversions. Well west of Phoenix, the river bends sharply southward along the Gila Bend Mountains, then it swings westward again near the town of Gila Bend. It flows southwestward between the Gila Mountains to the south and the Languna and Muggins ranges to the north in Yuma County, and finally it empties into the Colorado
Colorado
at Yuma, Arizona. The Gila is joined by many tributaries, beginning with the East and West Forks of the river, which combine to form the main stem near Gila Hot Springs in New Mexico. Above Safford, it is joined by the San Francisco River and the intermittent San Simon River. Further downstream it is joined by the San Carlos River from the north in San Carlos Lake. At Winkelman, Arizona
Arizona
it picks up the San Pedro River and then is joined by the Santa Cruz River south of Casa Grande. The Salt River, its main tributary, joins in the Phoenix metro area, and further west the Gila receives its last two major tributaries, the Agua Fria and Hassayampa Rivers, from the north. Although the Gila River
Gila River
flows entirely within the United States, the headwaters of two tributaries – the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers – extend into Mexico. About 1,630 sq mi (4,200 km2), or 2.8% of the Gila's 58,200-square-mile (151,000 km2) watershed, is in Mexico.[5] A further 3,300 sq mi (8,500 km2) or 5.7% lies within New Mexico, while the remaining majority, 53,270 sq mi (138,000 km2) or 91.5%, is in Arizona.[6] History[edit]

The McPhaul Suspension Bridge on a former section of US Route 95
US Route 95
spans the Gila between the Gila and Laguna ranges in Yuma County. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A band of Pima (autonym "Akimel O'odham", river people), the Keli Akimel O'odham ( Gila River
Gila River
People), have lived on the banks of the Gila River
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 word meaning "running water which is salty".[7] 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). Indigenous peoples such as the Hohokam
Hohokam
were responsible for creating large, complex civilizations along the Middle Gila River
Gila River
and Salt River between 600 and 1450 A.D. These native civilizations depended largely on irrigated agriculture, for which they constructed over 200 miles (320 km) of canals.[8] The upper Gila was inhabited by the Mogollon culture
Mogollon culture
over most of the same time period, in settlements like those at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in the later period. The first European to see the Gila River
Gila River
was possibly Spanish explorer and missionary Juan de la Asunción. Asunción reached the Gila in 1538 after traveling northwards along one of its tributaries, either the San Pedro or Santa Cruz.[9] In 1540, Hernando de Alarcón sailed up the Colorado
Colorado
and Gila Rivers; maps drawn by his expedition show the river as the Miraflores or Brazos de la Miraflores.[10]

The Gila River
Gila River
near Coolidge Dam
Coolidge Dam
in Arizona

During the Mexican–American War, General Stephen Watts Kearny marched 100 cavalrymen from the 1st U.S. Dragoons
1st U.S. Dragoons
along the Gila River in November 1846.[11] This detachment was guided by Kit Carson. The Mormon Battalion
Mormon Battalion
followed Kearny's troops, building a wagon trail roughly following the river from December 1846 to January 1847.[12] After the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
in 1848, the Gila River
Gila River
served as a part of the border between the United States
United States
and Mexico
Mexico
until the 1853 Gadsden Purchase
Gadsden Purchase
soon extended American territory well south of the Gila. The confluence of the Gila with the Colorado River
Colorado River
was also used as a reference point for the southern border of California. Beginning in 1871, mainly Mormon
Mormon
settlers populated the Gila River valley around present-day Phoenix, using the Gila, Salt and San Pedro Rivers for irrigation and establishing at least six major settlements.[13] In 1944, twenty-five German POWs pulled off the largest and most spectacular escape from an American compound during the war, digging a 178-foot (54 m) tunnel out of the Navy’s Papago Park
Papago Park
Prisoner of War Camp in Arizona. All of the men were eventually captured, though some remained at large for more than a month. Among the last to be captured were three German soldiers who had based their audacious but ill-fated escape plans on a stolen highway map of Arizona, which showed the Gila River
Gila River
leading to the Colorado
Colorado
River, which in turn led to Mexico. Devising a scheme to flee by water, the Germans constructed a collapsible kayak under the noses of their American captors, tested it in a makeshift pool within the prison compound, then sneaked it out through the tunnel. Their plan was perfect- except for the map. The Gila, shown as a healthy blue waterway, turned out to be little more than a dry rut.[14] Dams and diversions[edit]

Painted Rock Dam
Painted Rock Dam
in central Arizona, with its usually dry reservoir nearly full after heavy runoff in 2005

The only major dam on the Gila River
Gila River
is Coolidge Dam, 31 miles (50 km) southeast of Globe, Arizona, which forms San Carlos Lake. The Painted Rock Dam
Painted Rock Dam
crosses the Gila near Gila Bend, although the river is a transient one at that point. A number of minor diversion dams have been built on the river between the Painted Rock Dam
Painted Rock Dam
and the Coolidge Dam, including the Gillespie Dam
Gillespie Dam
which was breached during a flood in 1993. Many dams have also been built on tributaries, including Theodore Roosevelt Dam
Theodore Roosevelt Dam
on the Salt River, New Waddell Dam
New Waddell Dam
on the Agua Fria River, and Bartlett Dam
Bartlett Dam
on the Verde River. Many major dams in the Gila River
Gila River
system were built and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which also constructed most of the large dams throughout the Colorado River
Colorado River
basin. Others, such as Coolidge Dam, are owned by local water supply agencies, irrigation districts or Native American tribes. The Gila River
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
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. A long time ago, the Gila River
Gila River
was navigable by large riverboats from its mouth to near Phoenix, and by smaller craft from Phoenix nearly to the Arizona
Arizona
– New Mexico border. The width varied from 150 to 1,200 feet (46 to 366 m) with a depth of 2 to 40 feet (0.61 to 12.19 m). The natural discharge of the river was roughly 1,300,000 acre feet (1.6 km3) per year, with a mean flow of about 1,800 cubic feet per second (51 m3/s) at the mouth.[15] The river's present discharge near the mouth is less than 180,000 acre feet (0.22 km3) per year, with an average flow of just 247 cubic feet per second (7.0 m3/s).[3] Overdraft from the Gila River
Gila River
system has prompted the construction of the Central Arizona
Arizona
Project, which delivers some 1,500,000 acre feet (1.9 km3) annually from the Colorado River
Colorado River
to supplement water supplies in the basin.[16] The upper Gila River, including its 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 proposed dam projects such as Hooker Dam. During his time in office, former New Mexico
New Mexico
Governor Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson
had promised to block any such attempt during his term, and he had even considered pushing for a statutory prohibition against any such projects on the state's portion of the river.[17] Recreation[edit]

Middle Fork of the Gila River, SW New Mexico

Rock spires above the East Fork of the Gila River, Gila Wilderness

The Gila River
Gila River
between Virden, New Mexico, and Solomon, Arizona, is navigable during spring snowmelt and after summer and autumn storms. The river passes through many scenic canyons and stretches of Class I to III whitewater. Due to its desert surroundings, the river is characterized by erratic flows and flash floods that reach high peaks and drop off just as quickly. The Gila's Salt River tributary has even more difficult whitewater, ranging up to Class IV in places, and often has higher and more dependable flows than the Gila. Boating and fishing are popular on San Carlos Lake
San Carlos Lake
and other basin reservoirs, including Lake Pleasant and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The river system has 36 fish species,[18] including largemouth bass, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish and Gila Trout (Oncorhynchus gilae gilae). Variant names[edit] The Gila River
Gila River
has also been known as:[1]

Akee-mull Apache de Gila Brazo de Miraflores Cina`ahuwipi (Chemehuevi language) Hah-quah-sa eel (Yuma language) 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

See also[edit]

Gila River
Gila River
at U.S. 95

San Francisco River San Pedro River Santa Cruz River Agua Fria River
Agua Fria River
(Arizona) List of Arizona
Arizona
rivers List of New Mexico
New Mexico
rivers List of tributaries of the Gila River List of longest rivers of the United States
United States
(by main stem) Gila River
Gila River
War Relocation Center Needle's Eye Wilderness Gila and Salt River Meridian

References[edit] Footnotes[edit]

^ a b c "Gila River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1980-02-08. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ a b c Kammerer, J.C. "Largest Rivers in the United States". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ a b "USGS Gage #09520500 on the Gila River
Gila River
near Dome, AZ" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1903–2011. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ "The Gila is mostly bone dry in its lower reaches" (Jonathan Waterman, "American Nile: Saving the Colorado", National Geographic). ^ "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ "USGS Gage #09432000 on the Gila River
Gila River
Below Blue Creek, Near Virden, NM" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1914–2011. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ " Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest
(archived)". United States
United States
Forest Service. 2003-12-04. Archived from the original on January 11, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-16.  ^ Howard, Jerry B. " Hohokam
Hohokam
Legacy: Desert Canals". Pueblo Grande Museum Profiles No. 12. WaterHistory.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ Hartmann, William K.; Hartmann, Gayle Harrison (1972). "Juan de la Asunción, 1538: First Spanish Explorer of Arizona?". Kiva. 37 (2): 93–103.  ^ "Rivers and Mountains". Books of the Southwest. University of Arizona. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ Turner, Henry Smith (1966). The original journals of Henry Smith Turner with Stephen Watts Kearny
Stephen Watts Kearny
to New Mexico
New Mexico
and California, 1846-1847. Edited and with an introd. by Dwight L. Clarke. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 87.  ^ Tyler, Daniel (1969). A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion
Mormon Battalion
in the Mexican War, 1846-1847. Glorieta, NM: Rio Grande Press. p. 233.  ^ Peterson, Charles S. (1992). "Pioneer Settlements in Arizona". Light Planet. Retrieved 2012-03-16.  ^ Harvey, Miles, 2000, The Island of Lost Maps. Page 154. ^ Cohen, Michael J.; Henges-Jeck, Christine; Castillo-Moreno, Gerardo (2001). "A preliminary water balance for the Colorado River
Colorado River
delta, 1992 – 1998" (PDF). Journal of Arid Environments. 49: 35–48. doi:10.1006/jare.2001.0834. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link) ^ "Biological Opinion on the Transportation and Delivery of Central Arizona
Arizona
Project Water to the Gila River
Gila River
Basin in Arizona
Arizona
and New Mexico". Native Aquatic Species of the Gila River
Gila River
Basin in Arizona
Arizona
and New Mexico. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 2010-08-30. Retrieved 2012-03-18.  ^ Massey, Barry (2008-04-17). "NM governor pledges to fight Gila River diversion". Las Cruces Sun-News. Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-04.  ^ Benke and Cushing, p. 531

Works cited[edit]

Benke, Arthur C.; Cushing, Colbert E. (2005). Rivers of North America. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12088-253-1. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gila River.

Gila River
Gila River
Tourism Website Arizona
Arizona
Boating Locations Facilities Map Arizona
Arizona
Fishing Locations Map Where to Fish in Arizona
Arizona
Species Information Arizona
Arizona
Lake Levels

v t e

Rivers and streams of Arizona

Apache County

Agua Sal Creek Bis Ii Ah Wash Black Creek Black River Blue River Chinle Creek Chinle Wash Kinlichee Creek Laguña Creek Little Colorado
Colorado
River Puerco River San Francisco River Walker Creek Zuni River

Cochise County

Babocomari River Black Draw Bonita Creek Dragoon Wash Mescal Arroyo San Bernardino River San Pedro River San Simon River Steins Creek Tres Alamos Wash Whitewater Draw

Coconino County

Colorado
Colorado
River Corn Creek Wash Fossil Creek Havasu Creek Hockey Puck Spring Kanab Creek Little Colorado
Colorado
River Oak Creek Paria River Tapeats Creek Thunder River Verde River

Gila County

Canyon Creek Canyon Creek Cherry Creek Christopher Creek East Verde River Fossil Creek Gila River Haigler Creek Horton Creek Negro Wash Salome Creek Salt River Tonto Creek White River Workman Creek

Graham County

Aravaipa Creek Ash Creek Bar X Wash Black River Gila River San Pedro River San Simon River

Greenlee County

Black River Blue River Eagle Creek San Francisco River

La Paz County

Bouse Wash Colorado
Colorado
River Ehrenberg Wash Santa Maria River Tyson Wash

Maricopa County

Agua Fria River Centennial Wash Gila River Hassayampa River Salt River Verde River

Mohave County

Beaver Dam Wash Big Sandy River Bill Williams River Centennial Wash Colorado
Colorado
River Diamond Creek Granite Wash Kingman Wash Sacramento Wash Santa Maria River Virgin River

Navajo County

Black River Chevelon Creek Clear Creek Laguña Creek Little Colorado
Colorado
River Little Lithodendron Wash Puerco River Silver Creek White River

Pima County

Arivaca Creek Brawley Wash Ciénega Creek Mescal Arroyo Molino Creek Rillito River Sabino Creek San Cristobal Wash San Pedro River Santa Cruz River Tenmile Wash

Pinal County

Gila River San Pedro River Santa Cruz River Tom Mix Wash

Santa Cruz County

Babocomari River Ciénega Creek Harshaw Creek Santa Cruz River Sonoita Creek

Yavapai County

Agua Fria River Fossil Creek Granite Creek Hassayampa River Verde River

Yuma County

Colorado
Colorado
River Gila River San Cristobal Wash Tenmile Wash Tyson Wash

v t e

Colorado River
Colorado River
system

Jurisdictions

United States

Arizona California Colorado Nevada New Mexico Utah Wyoming

Mexico

Baja California Sonora

Canyons

Byers Canyon Gore Canyon Red Gorge Glenwood Canyon De Beque Canyon Horsethief Canyon Ruby Canyon Westwater Canyon Cataract Canyon Narrow Canyon Glen Canyon Grand Canyon

Marble Canyon Granite Gorge Middle Granite Gorge Lower Granite Gorge

Grand Wash Canyon Iceberg Canyon Virgin Canyon Boulder Canyon Black Canyon Pyramid Canyon Mohave Canyon

Natural features

River course Rocky Mountains Colorado River
Colorado River
Basin Colorado
Colorado
Plateau Grand Lake Horseshoe Bend Sonoran Desert Mojave Desert Lower Colorado River
Colorado River
Valley Mohave Valley Parker Valley Palo Verde Valley Colorado
Colorado
Desert Alamo River New River Salton Sea Imperial Valley Delta Montague Island Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez

Tributaries

Blue River Dirty Devil River Dolores River Escalante River Eagle River Fraser River Gila River Green River Gunnison River Kanab Creek Little Colorado
Colorado
River Paria River Roaring Fork River San Juan River Thunder River/Tapeats Creek Virgin River Las Vegas Wash Williams Fork Río Hardy

Engineering

Mainstem dams

Shadow Mountain Granby Windy Gap Grand Valley Price-Stubb Glen Canyon Hoover Davis Parker Headgate Rock Palo Verde Imperial Laguna Morelos

Major reservoirs

Fontenelle Reservoir Flaming Gorge Reservoir Blue Mesa Reservoir Navajo Lake Lake Powell Lake Mead Lake Mohave Lake Havasu Imperial Reservoir Theodore Roosevelt Lake San Carlos Lake

Aqueducts and canals

Grand Ditch Colorado River
Colorado River
Aqueduct San Diego Aqueduct Central Arizona
Arizona
Project All-American Canal Coachella Canal

Water projects

Boulder Canyon Project Colorado-Big Thompson Project Colorado River
Colorado River
Storage Project Grand Valley AVA Yuma Project

Designated areas

Arches National Park Canyonlands National Park Colorado
Colorado
National Monument Dead Horse Point State Park Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon
National Recreation Area Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
National Park Lake Mead
Lake Mead
National Recreation Area Rocky Mountain National Park

Related topics

Arizona
Arizona
v. California Colorado River
Colorado River
Board of California Colorado River
Colorado River
Compact Floyd Dominy Lee's Ferry International Boundary and Water Commission Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Rapids and features U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

.