Journey to Bonita Creek
Text and Photos by Nick Smallwood
As the rays of the early-morning sun cascaded over the desert terrain, they illuminated the wildlife lookout which stood at the end of the path in front of me. At my feet, golden wildflowers grew out of the soil, basking in the warmth of the light.
I was standing upon a hillside, looking down at Bonita Creek, part of the 23,000-acre Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, one of only two Riparian National Conservation Areas (RNCA) in the U.S.
The area was designated as an RNCA by The Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990, to conserve, protect and enhance riparian areas and associated resources. In the area, four perennial waterways flow: the Gila and San Francisco rivers, and the Bonita and Eagle creeks.
As I stood behind my camera, I pushed down on the shutter button. With a satisfying click, I froze the moment in time. This was the first shot of many that I took during my time at Bonita Creek.
Located 14 miles from the town of Safford, Arizona, Bonita Creek is popular among wildlife viewers, hikers and off-road enthusiasts.
The area is home to over 100 species of birds, which frequent the area as they travel between Central America and the U.S., during the winter and summer, as well as bighorn sheep, beaver, javelina and mule deer.
Although camping is not allowed in the riparian zone, those wishing to spend a few days exploring the area can stay in Riverview or Owl Creek Campgrounds. Information on both sites can be found here. Below is also a map of the area.
Directions (FROM SAFFORD) to Bonita Creek Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area. Courtesy of recreation.gov. From Safford, travel approximately five miles east on U.S. Highway 70 to the town of Solomon and turn left onto Sanchez Road. Travel north for eight miles, crossing the bridge at the Gila River, to a Gila Box RNCA sign. Turn left onto that dirt road. Travel another 3.8 miles and take the right fork in the road. Travel 0.6 mile to another fork and turn right. At the next fork, follow the signs left to the Bonita Creek Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area.
Here are a few of my best photos from my trip to Bonita Creek.
Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.
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