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Bill Williams River Gorge, AZ

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Guide 3 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Parker
4 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 10 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,251 feet
Elevation Gain -338 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 days
Kokopelli Seeds 11.69
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
30  2016-12-26
Alamo Lake State Park
21  2011-01-15 Sarae
17  2011-01-15 azbackpackr
Author Sarae
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 9
Photos 681
Trips 92 map ( 790 miles )
Age 39 Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Dec, Feb, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:22am - 6:31pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
An enjoyable route to wrinkly feet.
by Sarae

The Bill Williams River Gorge is a seldom visited canyon accessed through Alamo State Park in the Rawhide Mountain Wilderness. It features steep canyon walls, narrows, side canyons, sandy beaches, beaver dams, and of course, multiple water crossings. There is no established trail through the gorge, but ocassionaly you will find a use path along the banks.

The water flow is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers at the Alamo Dam, which was built in 1968. The Dam's creation greatly affected the flood patterns and caused major changes in the river corridor habitat. However, the gorge still contains a lush riparian zone with enough wildlife and vegetation to keep a hiker content. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the average flow rate is 50 ft3/s, but you will want to check the current conditions before hiking the canyon as there are dam releases when Alamo Lake reaches high levels. The flow was around 29 ft3/s below the dam when we went in January.

**Make sure your gear will stay dry if you are forced to do a swim due to water depth or by some tricky footwork gone terribly awry.**

Another note, in late winter and spring, the gorge may be closed to hiking due to nesting bald eagles. Call the Lake Havasu BLM office to get up-to-date info.

Hike: Park at the lot for the Bill Williams overlook and picnic area(fee required for overnight parking). I'm calling this the TH. It features a fantastic, Jetson's-esque picnic shelter. Walk back up to the Alamo Dam Access Road and follow it to the right. You will come to a gate with a no trespassing sign, but apparently that just means no trespassing by any other means than walking. You can pass to the left of the gate. From here, keep following the road down into the canyon. Make a quick stop to check out the Dam and capture a couple of pics of the lake and the entry to the gorge. Once you get to the bottom of the canyon(about 1.25 miles), you will find the gaging station. Pass it, staying high and to the left, and going up and over a jumble of rocks and concrete. A side canyon comes in from the right and the river goes left. There is a use trail that will lead you across a sandy bench and towards the first of many water crossings. The second crossing was at the first narrowing of the canyon, and it was the only place where we had to get in over waist high. We were grateful for the gentle flow rate of the river. The bottom of the river was very muddy here, making it difficult to quickly move through this crossing. The water crossings are very frequent from this point, but if you search, there are generally routes that you can take to avoid getting any deeper than your knees. Footing for the majority of crossings required attention as the conditions of the stream bottom varied. We did encounter a beaver dam at one point that forced us to scramble along some ledges on the left side of the canyon, but this was done easily with some careful footwork.

The river banks are often thick with willow saplings and other low growing vegetation. This can make navigating the banks to find shallow crossings more of an adventure. Side canyons join the main gorge at several points along the way. These canyons looked quite inviting, and some are said to be home to small waterfalls. We passed many sites that seemed suitable for camping, but we chose to stop and camp at about 3 miles into the canyon. The gorge continues on for about another 2 miles before opening up into the Bill Williams River Valley. I'm sure a few really pleasant days could be spent exploring all this place has to offer...if you like that kind of thing. The way out is the way you came in.

There is camping at Alamo Lake State Park if you wish to just day hike the gorge. There are full amenities available, including showers.

Check out the Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2011-02-18 Sarae
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Bill Williams River Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    3 day 2 night road trip up to Alamo Lake State Park with Addie to visit our friend Lauren.
    I first headed up a couple days earlier solo to Chandler from Safford to spend Christmas with my family.
    Met up with Addie in Chandler on the 26th in the early am and together we made the long drive out to Alamo arriving at 4am.

    12/26 - 4am arrival at Alamo Lake State Park. We pulled into the first electric campsite we could find in the dark, ran a small heater into the car and got a couple hours of much needed sleep. The park was very dark, quiet & cold!
    Morning came and we spent it just checking out the entire park. We drove all the roads up to the dam, down to the lake & through the campgrounds ..... Alamo is a big place!
    10am we met with the asst Manager and got checked into our cabin for the night (Largmouth Lodge) then hiked the short Lake View Loop. That afternoon we met up with our friend Lauren and the 3 of us got the VIP tour of the area from her BF Ron who is a Ranger at the park. He took us beyond the locked gate behind the dam for a short hike down the Bill Williams River Gorge that was just Awesome! If ever I come back, this is what I'll come back to see more of. We then left the park for a late evening/sunset drive out across the desert to an upper river view before returning back and calling it an early night.

    12/27 - 5am meet up & start of day #2. With Ron as our driver & tour guide, we departed Alamo Lake for a road trip out to and up the Parker Strip. The plan was to hit all of the State Parks along the strip and end back at London Bridge for dinner. Ron assured us we could get it all done in a day ..... and we did!

    #1 Buckskin Mountain State Park - Small park with good Colorado River bend views. We hiked up the Lightning Bolt Trail for the excellent overlook views of the park & river.
    #2 River Island State Park - 1.5 miles down the road from Buckskin. Very small camping park along the river. We hiked the Wedge Hill Trail up to the overlook.
    #3 Parker Dam - Quick stop and drive over the dam into California.
    #4 Cattail Cove State Park - Another small park along the river, my favorite of the 4 we visited. Walked the small white sand beach & park before hiking the Whytes Loop Trail. The trail follows the shoreline with great views of the river/lake and I spent a little time following a very cool slot canyon down to the water.
    #5 Lake Havasu State Park - Basically just a huge parking lot with lots of beach. We walked it a bit, got our lake pics then head back to London Bridge.
    #6 London Bridge - Dinner was first had at Barley Brothers Brewery with a window view of London Bridge. We then spent the rest of the evening with a walk over the bridge and then down and along the Shoreline Trail out to the Colorado River view. It was a very nice ending to the day along the Parker Strip!

    We then made the long drive back to Alamo Lake State Park arriving back well after dark. Unpacked into our 2nd home for the trip in one of the parks resident mobile homes. Bed again came early ending a great day #2!

    12/28 - 6am rise for an early start to the long drive back home to Safford. Lauren followed us out from Alamo in her car to Yarnell to hike the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Trail with us (separate triplog for this one).
    After completing the memorial trail, we said our goodbys, Lauren headed back to Alamo as we headed back to Safford.
    Arrived back into Safford at 9pm ending another great time spent with my 2 outdoor adventure girls + 1 new friend!

    Thank You Ron for the excellent tour service!
    Thank You Addie & Lauren XOXOXO

    1000 miles
    6 AZ State Parks
    2 States
    2 Rivers
    2 lakes
    2 Dams
    1 Bridge
    Bill Williams River Gorge
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Did this unique trip with ABC. In Saturday morning, and out early Sunday afternoon. Camped at Alamo Lake State Park the night before in Camp Area A. Slow going for the water crossings, so we didn't make it all the way to the end of the gorge. Just another reason to go back. Looks like hawks nest on ledges of the canyon walls. Lots of evidence of smaller animals in the form of prints. Saw "other" evidence of the wild donkeys that are in the area. Also, saw a beaver dam and lots of chewed up trees along the water. Pretty sure I heard some tail slapping at points during the night and I kept waking up convinced that there was one chewing on one of the willows I was hanging from. :sweat: The water was clear enough to see the bottom in most places so we could tell where we needed to be careful of the larger, slippery rocks. There was one water crossing that was up past my waist, but all others were completely doable. Lots of places to camp along the banks, some of the benches are a good 20 feet above the water. Our night temps were above freezing, but I think they dropped below 40. There are a couple of side canyons that we passed that would be fun to explore, and I'd love to make it to the end of the gorge next time I visit. I do have to say that the 4 hour drive to get there seems to take forever.

    Went and had a pretty decent burger after getting out of the gorge at the intersection of Wickenburg Rd and Park Rd, which boasts an airport of sorts, or at least a landing strip.

    Permit $$
    AZ State Parks more info
    2018 Day Use Fees range from $2–$30

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix: Take I-10 to exit 81, Salome Rd. Turn right onto Salome Rd and continue to Salome. Turn right onto US-60 and continue to Wenden. Turn left onto 2nd St/Cunningham Pass Rd (signs for Alamo Lake). Continue onto Alamo Rd, which eventually turns into Alamo Dam Access Rd. The picnic area is after the Park office on the right. This is about a 4 hour drive.
    page created by Sarae on Feb 18 2011 10:11 am
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