Deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains southeast of Colonia
Garcia, rises the highest peak around. It is covered with
beautiful Chihuahua Pine trees. On it's ample top Geronimo, the famed
Apache, made a peaceful resting place far from his pursuers and the
reach of his enemies.
There are still signs that this Meadow Valley knoll was
used anciently for signaling to other high peaks such as Scott's Peak,
El Norte and the Moctezuma Mountain. From this prominence a ridge runs
east for a few miles then turns south forming the continental divide
in that part of the Seirra Madre.
On the north side of this ridge just under the Meadow
Valley Knoll, a little trickle of water begins in a little meadow
surrounded with heavy timber and flows northeast into a series of
beautiful meadows that form Meadow Valley. This valley is where Enos
and John Wood grazed their cattle and beloved horses. This trickle of
water steadily increases through Meadow Valley and becomes the
headwaters of the Piedras Verdes River Which flows through Hop Valley,
Pacheco, Cave Valley, Colonia Juarez, and on through the Casas Grandes
valley on down through Ascencion and finally empties into Lake
On the south side of this ridge there is a wide, open
valley which was anciently covered with dwellings of an unknown
peaceful people. Their houses gradually crumbled into small mounds of
earth leaving no story of the inhabitants. This is Mound Valley where
a little stream of water begins running south through the valley and
turns west as it emerges and crosses the main road from Garcia to
Chuhuichupa. This stream is the headwaters of the legendary and
romantic Gavilan River. From there this stream tumbles through a
rugged canyon west and emerges into q gradually opening valley on the
eastern side of the south end of the "Blues". It passes under the
eastern shadow of Bull Peak where the early settlers found the biggest
White Tailed bucks and the fattest Turkey Gobblers. In the early days
this is where the Allred Ranch was situated and later one of the
biggest Lumber Sawmills operated for many years. It is still called
As the Gavilan turns through the Colorado in a
big arc it runs north through a beautiful river valley supplying
life-giving moisture to the plants and trees along the way. This
valley is high in the timbered Sierra Madre where one can drink in the
peace and beauty of the land. Here the canyon is not deep and affords
good grazing on the surrounding country. When I was a boy this part of
the Gavilan was adorned with tall majestic pines and the stream was
full of the Yaqui Rainbow Trout and was one of the favorite places to
camp and fish and hunt.
All along the way the river gathers water from the
little streams running in from both sides draining the Gavilan Basin
on it's way. Farther north the river runs through "Las
Amarillas". This valley in the rainy season fills up with a sea of
yellow flowers, hence the name. For many years Elvin Whetten had a
ranch house there by the beautiful spring of water and the large
Weeping Willow Trees.
Farther north the Gavilan, now a good sized river, runs
through "The Verde". This has been the place for the central ranch
house for many years for the ranchers that run their cattle in this
area. From the Verde the Gavilan runs through "La Mesilla" before
dropping into the deeper canyon above the falls. Above and below the
falls and the Streams that flow into the Gavilan is the area dreamed
about by the avid trout fishermen of the Gavilan. Here and farther
north is where Clarence Lunt and other hunting guides from Pacheco
came to camp with their hunting parties. Here the famous Daiblo Trail
drops into the Gavilan just above where the Diablo Canyon comes
in. A little farther north is the Leopold Camp with it's
nostalgic story that is among the very few that have been written.
about the Gavilan as it was before and after.
If the Gavilan could give us the unrecorded stories of
the centuries of travelers, ancient and modern, who quenched their
thirst with it's water and ate trout from it's cold ripples and felt
the peace and healing of it's environment, it would be a video worth
watching or would fill volumes of history. Even for me to record the
wonderful experiences that I have had along the Gavilan would take
much too long, but the romantic memories are there and stir little
longings to return to the Gavilan.
After its journey north the Gavilan makes a sweeping
bend around the north end of the "Blues". Ah!!! This is the place that
is filled with History and stories of all kinds. Too many to relate
but the river saw it all. This is where Elvin Whetten raised his
family along with his cattle and gave them the rich heritage and love
of the mountains and their love of their home on the Gavilan
This is where the Gavilancito runs into the Gavilan and
adds to it's ever growing stream. This is where Don Jesus Villa raised
his family along with the Mendoza family. From here the Gavilan runs
south collecting the water of the streams that run in from both sides.
Some of the names of the more famous are Las Gruacamayas, Las Gueras,
Los Estribos, El Zorrillo, La Cebadilla, and La Trucha. All of which
are good trout streams. The Gavilan collects the water from both sides
of the Blues as it completely circles them on three sides. On the west
it flows south the full length of the Blues and finally turns
west as Trout Creek joins with it's flow.
Trout Creek heads on the northwest side of Bull Peak
and runs all the way down west to drop into the Gavilan right where it
turns west to flow into Three Rivers.
All along the Gavilan River there are signs of an
ancient civilization with many sites of dwellings and cave dwellings.
The whole river bottom was terraced, where ever possible, at one time.
Many of the ancient terraces are still visible after so many years of
erosion. The Old Burgos Ranch was a special place for us to go
hunting and camping every year. There are still no roads into it. We
would travel the Three Rivers road past the Whetten ranch and turn off
on top above the Gavilan just before the main road drops into Three
Rivers. We called this camp El Campo Santo because there was an
ancient grave yard there. It is high on a landscaped level place on
the side of the hill. The graves are in rows surrounded by rocks and
trees. What a beautiful place to be buried, high on a mountain side
over looking the Gavilan Canyon with the shining water of
the river winding down along the green canyon bottom and between
towering cliffs.. We would leave our vehicles there and pack our camp
down into the ranch on pack mules. We would spend a week riding the
country hunting and enjoying the beautiful Gavilan country from the
bottom to the top of the Blues. When we were camped on Trout creek we
would ride over to the Gavilan for a good swim. It was fun to watch
the Nutrias (Mexican Otters) as they swam, dove and played in the
pools of the Gavilan.
Among the many memories of trips to the Gavilan, one
picture remains clear in my mind's eye. Naoma and I and all of our
children and Leland Robinson and his family joined in a week's camp.
We met Don Panchito Peña with the mules and horses up on the Campo
Santo. We Packed the mules and got everyone mounted ready to descend.
Our youngest son Anthony was then only 6 weeks old. My wife Naoma,
being a veteran of many such trips, simply wrapped our baby in a shawl
tied from her shoulders in front of her and road the mule down the
switchback trail to our camp on the Gavilan. Here we hunted Turkey and
played in the waters of the Gavilan and enjoyed the week with our
Trout Creek!!! What memories are evoked by that
enchanted place. Nearly every summer for 30 years, our family spent a
week camped on Trout Creek. Usually with invited guests and other
families. We would drive from Dublan over the north end of the Blues
and leave the vehicles at La Cebadilla. We usually arrived there on
Monday about noon and hurriedly pack up the mules and got everyone
mounted and take the trail to our favorite camp on Trout Creek. Some
times there were not enough riding animals for everyone to ride. In
that case those who knew the trail would go on foot and usually arrive
first at camp. The trail led passed the old Carrizo Cabin and down
through the canyon passing the Anapara (Fire Bee) nest and along the
narrow trail on the very steep side hill finally dropping into trout
creek. We usually arrived about sundown to set up camp. All hands were
busy setting up camp. Unpack the mules and bell and hobble the mare
and lead horses leaving the mules loose and send them out to graze,
set up tents and kitchen flies, get a fire going and prepare supper.
For beds we used 3 inch covered rubber foam mats that we carried
rolled very tight on top of the pack boxes on each side of a pack.
With a sleeping bag this made a good bed.
By sun up the next morning we would have 40 or 50 trout
on the grill sizzling in butter for breakfast. Nothing tastes better
than Trout fried in butter that have just been pulled out of the cold
clear waters of Trout Creek. All the family know how to catch Trout
both the Girls and the boys. Many times they outdid their Dad. On
occasion the cook would pride himself on having one grill filled with
Trout, another with fried Turkey breast and another with tenderloin of
After Breakfast we would use the excuse of going
swimming to ride the country to Black Canyon one day and to the
Gavilan the next. Those on foot would use the pack mules for riding on
these trips to see the country.
In addition to these family trips we usually had 1 or 2
Explorer Scout groups come from the USA and with the help of my boys
we would take them for a weeks pack trip in the Sierra Madre. Through
the years we have taken groups that come from St. Louis Missouri to
California and states in between.
My Brother Donn was a very zealous Scoutmaster. Many
times he has taken his scouts up over the south end of the Blues and
camped between the falls on Trout Creek. For their ten mile hike
he would take them from their camp all the way down Trout creek to
where the Gavilan and Trout Creek join and on down to where the Three
Rivers meet. By the time they got back to camp they knew they had been
on a hike. It is closer to 8 miles down and 8 miles back. On the way
back it is up hill all the way.
Back to the rivers that make up Three Rivers. After the
three rivers join they turn into the big "Rio Bavispe". At the place
where the three rivers join the Gavilan runs in from the East. From
the south the Arco River runs in. This river is made of 3 main
streams. The beautiful Chuhuichupa River heads on the south of
Chuhuichupa starting on the north side of the Candelaria
Mountains. It flows through Chuhuichupa going north. On its
course north it picks up the famous trout streams such as: the San
Juan De Dios, the Chuchupate, the Banderas and the Toro. When it
reaches the south end of the Blues, just under Bull Peak, it turns
west and runs past the Huerta, Cuarenta Casas, El Venado and
passes the Huerfano on the north side to meet the Black Canyon River.
These two join and flow on west past Las Alazanas to join the Arco
River just above San Juan. As they join they become the Arco and flow
north into the point where the three rivers join.
The third River Runs in from the West and is called "El
Arroyo de la Cueva". This river drains the country south of La Mesa de
Tres Rios and the country towards El Pico de la India. In the rainy
season these rivers run a lot of water and the Bavispe carries it on
down to the towns in Sonora of Cobora, Huachinera, Bavispe and others.
It forms part of the river system that waters the coastal plains of
Sonora and produces more than any other river in Mexico.
This is only a part of the romance of the Gavilan
River. I know that history is written according to the historian
consequently each person who enjoyed being on the Gavilan can write a
different story. They might be of bear attacks or of rustlers or of
romantic love stories. These are a few of my memories of the Gavilan
and the Creeks that run into it.
S. Keith Bowman, August 9, 2001