I was able to leave early from work on Wednesday. I picked up a friend in Tempe and we arrived at FR1390 around 1:00pm. This road is in decent condition. I would recommend mid-clearance and 4WD isn't really necessary, although it would certainly help coming out of the small, yet steep, washes. Originally, I had planned to take FR1553 to access the canyon, but I was reading conflicting reports on the road conditions (and Tonto Creek access) and wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight, so I just decided to stick with a quick, easy drive.
From the gaging station, we went about a mile and a half up Tonto Creek. Most of this part of the Tonto Box is beautiful and creates a sense of excitement as you get closer and closer to the narrows. However, the dense brush and thorny-riparian plant species made for slow and painful travel along the banks. Last week's .75inch of rainfall had not affected the flow too much, but it did create highly turbid and silty water. During our hike, the Creek was running at 9 CFS, yet we couldn't see anything in the water while crossing the creek. This made walking in the creek much more difficult than I expected. One moment I would see a boulder breaching the water line and step near it expecting shallower water. The next moment I would suddenly be up to my thighs in a muddy hole. This led us to stick with walking on the banks as much as possible.
We would've been able to travel much faster just walking up the creek, rather than attempting to bushwhack through cattails and walls of thorny plants. Of course, there is no trail, so you just have to pick a line and do your best to get through. The bushwhacking is worth it though! The further you go up the canyon, the more evident it becomes that this area gets very little human use. There are many points in the canyon where the banks cliff out, creating mandatory creek crossings, but they are never more than knee-deep.
The sun was getting low and the water, while not freezing, was cold enough to convince us to turn around once we reached the first narrows section. Upon returning to the gaging station and the wash/delta of Gun Creek, we attempted to see if we could find some pools of water in the Gun Creek channel. We went about a half mile up the wash before it is densely overgrown. I got to a an impassible point where it did not appear possible to walk further in the channel. Maybe if I had more daylight and time...and motivation, I would've just rerouted up and over he canyon wall. I was kind of disappointed to not see ANY signs of water in Gun Creek. But I didn't expected to be flowing, either. Interesting area though.
I would definitely come back here in mid-late January when some of the riparian vegetation has died down. I love Tonto Creek any the Box is an amazing place. The bushwhacking is tough, but worth it. And it's off the beaten path so you are likely to have the whole place to yourself!