On this day, President Bush signed the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 into law, which established 38 new wilderness areas and expanded the Aravaipa Canyon wilderness. The bill also established the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area featured here.
The 23,000-acre Gila Box Riparian NCA is truly an oasis in the desert. It has four perennial waterways - the Gila and San Francisco rivers and Bonita and Eagle creeks, which are the lifeline for this remarkable place. The Gila River canyon section, known as the Gila Box, is composed of patchy mesquite woodlands, mature cottonwoods, sandy beaches, and buff-colored cliffs. Bonita Creek, popular for birdwatching, hiking, and picnicking, is lined with large cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows. The perennial creek and riparian vegetation make this a cool year-round desert oasis.
Cliff dwellings, historic homesteads, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and over 200 species of birds make this year-round watery desert refuge worth the short drive from Safford, Arizona.
Photo by Bob Wick, BLM