Bonita Creek in the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area

The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area is a 23,000-acre oasis in the northern Chihuahuan desert. Bonita and Eagle Creeks, the San Francisco River and the Gila River all come together in the area of the "Gila Box." This section of the Gila River Canyon has lots of mature cottonwoods, sycamores, willows, sandy beaches, mesquite woodlands and sand-colored cliffs. The abundance of riparian vegetation supports more than 200 species of migratory and wintering birds. Some of the cliff walls sport the remains of ancient stone dwellings while some of the stream bottoms hold the remains of 100-year-old homesteads.

Fees are charged at the Riverview (13 camp sites) and Owl Creek (7 camp sites) Campgrounds. The campgrounds also offer shade structures, picnic tables, restrooms, trash cans and fire grills. Fee-less, permit-less dispersed camping is allowed on most of the property (except in riparian areas and on designated picnic sites). The stay limit is 14 consecutive days. Permits are needed for floating the Gila River. The Bonita Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, the Flying W Group Day Use site, all picnic areas and both developed campgrounds are all universally accessible.

Elevations vary between 3,100' and 4,400'. Summers are very hot. Some of the roads are accessible via passenger car but if you want to get around any, you'll bring a high clearance 4WD vehicle. If it starts raining or snowing, even 4WD won't help you. Flooding is common in the winter and summer rainy seasons and also during spring melt-off. Road maintenance is almost last on the list of "things that get done around here."