Gila River

The Gila River recreation area is located along the Gila River and SR 77 between the Town of Winkelman and Globe in Gila County, Arizona. It is approximately 70 miles north of Tucson and 100 miles southeast of Phoenix. The area includes approximately 5 river miles on public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management that is open to public recreational use.

The area includes two minimally developed sites that provide access from SR77 to the Gila River for river related recreation, such as wildlife viewing, picnicking, camping, fishing and small craft river floating in a scenic Sonoran desert canyon landscape. The Shores and Christmas recreation sites offer site roads off the highway, gravel parking, toilets and primitive picnic camping units. The sites are available at no cost on a first come first served basis.

Primitive sites with parking and a fire ring are available. Bring your own table, cooking stove and site furnishings. The sites are not suitable for large motor homes or RV trailers due to narrow clearance and maneuvering space.


The Gila River riparian area and upland canyon habitats provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including resident and migratory avian species, small mammals, reptiles and insects. The recreation sites is largely natural habitat, and some wildlife may present a hazard, such as rattlesnakes.

Warm water fish (channel catfish and carp, as well as some large flathead catfish and largemouth bass) may be found in this section of the Gila River.

River Floating

The Gila River can be accessed for floating at the Christmas and Shores sites, with a downriver take-out at the Town of Winkelman River Park. River flows are controlled by releases from the Coolidge Dam for agricultural irrigation in the Casa Grande-Coolidge area, and are typically suitable for small craft river floating (such as inflatable kayaks, canoes and tubes) from May through October when flows are over 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the USGS Gila river Below Coolidge Dam stream gage.

CAUTION RIVER FLOATERS: At high flows, 600 cfs or greater, the river may be at bankfull, and the current runs fast making maneuvering float craft extremely challenging and difficult or impossible to avoid navigation hazards. Hazards that may be encountered include tight river turns, restricted sight distance, debris deposits, tree branches overhanging the stream, fallen trees across the channel, dense vegetation along the riverbanks, and steep terrain. Other hazards include a fence across the river upstream between the Christmas and Shores sites.

Prohibited Activities

Target shooting and fireworks are not allowed. Vehicles must be kept on the designated roads and parking areas.

The Gila River crosses private and Arizona State Trust land. Please respect private property rights by not stopping on private land without permission and obtain a permit from the Arizona State Land Department for use of State Trust lands. A valid Arizona Game and Fish Department license is required for hunting or fishing.

Traveler Services

Lodging, food, fuel and other traveler services are available in nearby towns of Winkelman, Kearny, Superior, Mammoth, and Globe. The nearest medical facilities are in Globe at the Cobre Valley Community Hospital, and in Oro Valley at the Oro Valley Hospital.

The Town of Winkelman operates a river park with facilities for motor home and RV camping, water, toilets available for public use. The River Park provides a take out for floating from the Shores recreation site.


Gila River Recreation Sites

Accessibility Description (ABA/ADA)

The toilets/restrooms are wheelchair accessible. The picnic/camping sites and foot paths may have uneven ground surfaces, loose soils, and steep slopes and other obstructions that present barriers for the mobility impaired.

Adventure is at Your Fingertips


Iconograph of a motorboat
Iconograph of a fish head and a fishing hook on a line
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Tucson Field Office
3201 E. Universal Way

Geographic Coordinates

33.060375, -110.72265


The Gila River recreation area is located along the Gila River and SR 77 between the Town of Winkelman and Globe in Gila County, Arizona. It is approximately 70 miles north of Tucson and 100 miles southeast of Phoenix.

From Winkelman, take SR77 east to milepost 141.4 to the Shores Recreation Site entrance road, and milepost 144.6 to the Christmas Recreation Site.


The Shores and Christmas recreation sites are available at no cost on a first come, first served basis.

A permit is not required for private, non-commercial use of the sites. Use of public lands in connection with commercial recreational use requires a BLM Special Recreation Permit.