Nestled in the northern foothills of the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona lies Turkey Creek, a small riparian canyon that flows into Aravaipa Creek. Lined with large sycamore, Arizona walnut, and Arizona white oak trees, this narrow canyon provides a quiet retreat for picnicking and camping. Numerous small pull-outs along the three-mile length of the canyon are perfect for primitive camping. Day hiking is easy along the canyon bottom, a jumping off point to the east entrance of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. Colorful birds, as well as an occasional deer, javelina, or even a coatimundi, can be seen on early morning walks along the dirt road. A short trail leads to a prehistoric cliff dwelling; remnants of 120 years of homesteading and ranching are visible in the canyon. Due to its rich natural and cultural resources, part of Turkey Creek has been identified as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by BLM.
The Turkey Creek cliff dwelling is one of the most intact structures of its kind in southeastern Arizona. It was probably occupied for a few months each year by prehistoric farmers around 1300 A.D. These people, of the Salado culture, probably collected plants along Turkey Creek, grew corn, and hunted wild animals. Salado farmers disappeared suddenly around 1450 A.D.
No fee or permit is required to visit Turkey Creek or the cliff dwelling. The structure is over 500 years old; treat it with respect by not climbing or writing on its walls. To hike the nearby Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness a permit and daily fee are required. Permits are limited to 20 per day from the east entrance and can be reserved up to three months in advance. Contact the BLM Safford Field Office for reservations.
Access to Turkey Creek is via a dirt road that is maintained by Graham County. Conditions vary with seasonal precipitation and may require high-clearance vehicles and sometimes four-wheel drive. Restrooms are located at a small parking area near the wilderness boundary; maps and information about the wilderness are available at the BLM ranger station in Klondyke.
General Location: 60 miles west of Safford
Directions: To reach Turkey Creek, drive 15 miles northwest of Safford on Highway 70. Turn west on Aravaipa-Klondyke Road and go approximately 45 miles, passing through the town of Klondyke, to the Aravaipa Canyon trailhead parking lot. From there, continue on the road, which turns left up Turkey Creek.
Road Conditions: A graded county road provides access to the east Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness boundary. Creek crossings and seasonal road conditions may necessitate high-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicles. Winter and summer flooding make the road impassable to all vehicles. Call ahead for road information.
Elevation: 3,100 feet
Facilities: Restrooms and general information at the wilderness parking lot, additional information at the ranger station in Klondyke, developed campsites at Four Mile Canyon Campground in Klondyke, interpretive sign at cliff dwelling.
Attractions: Wildlife viewing, birding, camping (undeveloped sites), hiking, backpacking, sightseeing, back country driving.
Seasons/Hours: Open year-round. Fall, when the leaves turn color (usually in early November) is especially nice. Summer can be quite hot.
BLM Surface Management Map: Arizona 1:100,000 - Mammoth
U.S.G.S. Topographic Maps Arizona 7.5 minute - Booger Canyon, Oak Grove Canyon
Notes: Part of Turkey Creek is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern because of the sensitive riparian and cultural resources. Stay on the road and please use the existing campsites. Pack out all trash and keep the creek clean for native fish and wildlife. Use only dead and down wood for your campfire. Winter and summer rains may cause flash flooding. Check weather conditions before your visit.
Safford Field Office
711 14th Avenue
Safford, AZ 85546-3337
Phone: (928) 348-4400
Fax: (928) 348-4450
Field Manager: Scott Cooke
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., M-F