Arizona » Upper Burro Creek Wilderness

Me and a few cows

April, 2012 | 2 Comments
The trailhead into Upper Burro Creek

The trailhead into Upper Burro Creek

It has been a couple of years since I was hiking in Arizona… and I missed it.  I was looking for a destination that was new, not too far out of the way. I had thought about going into the Upper Burro Creek Wilderness a couple of years ago, but changed my plans and chose another place. The area is not terribly large and there were some large mining operations close by so wasn’t sure how that would impact the area. And for what ever reason, never went. But decided to give it a try.

The drive in was one of those unsigned drive-by-feel adventures. The book I used to read up on the wilderness described the route as -”Drive up highway 93 from Wickenburg as far as the Nothing Store…” Fortunately, I knew where that was… The book’s directions from there on were accurate and I got to the general area with no problems. Had a few issues actually finding the proper canyon… the road to the base of upper burro canyon cut back from the main road and looked like a ranch entrance – which it was, an old abandoned ranch. The road leading into the Burro Creek basin was rough in sections but not that bad. Once in the basin the roads were quite good.

Upper Burro Creek

Rugged lower section of the creek

The trailhead — if you could call it that — starts at the end of the abandoned ranch road about a quarter mile from the main road. It overlooks a large narrow and rocky section of the creek which was full of water… quite a bit more than I expected. This must be year round as there was a old abandoned jeep road that circumnavigated this half-mile section.

When the jeep road heads down to the creek again, it ends and the canyon, while rugged was easy to navigate from there. The creek was easy to cross at this time of year and water was flowing with nice pools here and there.

The rocky section lasted a few miles and was quite scenic and enjoyable. I followed a couple of Great Blue Herons up the canyon and saw about six Javelina along the way.

Salt Creek

Cattle overload along Salt Creek

Camped my first night at the junction with Salt Creek. Here the canyon started to open up… and the cow shit started to appear. Weather so far was perfect desert spring… warm but not hot. The next day I traveled up Salt Creek to about as far as Salt Creek Camp. The lower section of canyon was rugged and beautiful… some water flowing, but a putrid brown color. As the canyon started to open up at the top, the creek looked completely overrun with cow sign. Sadly shit everywhere and much of the foliage along the creek consumed. They apparently spend too much time around the camp and the place looks completely over used.

Camp along Upper Burro Creek

Camp along Upper Burro Creek

Back down in the main Upper Burro Creek section, I packed up and headed further up the creek. While cows were apparent in this area, the place didn’t look overrun… it’s  a fairly wide canyon here and the cattle spend most of their time away from the creek and in the scrubby flats along the sides of the canyon. This day I didn’t travel very far – a mile maybe – from my last camp, as I came across a lovely grassy section along the banks of a large pool and under some large Sycamore trees. Perfect to spend the afternoon catching up on my reading.

Upper Burro Creek

Morning in the canyon

The next day I packed up and spent the day leisurely wandering up the canyon along the creek. Some really nice sections and pretty easy to cross, though there was plenty of water flowing. Mainly in this section the canyon is wide and open, the creek rocky with river rock. Some sections were marshy with cattails – when not consumed by cattle – and in one section, a wide low beaver dam holding back some water in an area where the creek splits into a couple different flows. The camp this night was about to the upper end of the wilderness underneath some cliffs and along a section of deep creek.

Not really very far in at this point, and in no real hurry, the next day I started back. I followed some of the cow trails through the scrub and you could see where the cattlemen had tried to open up the brush for whatever reason with chainsaws. Not the most scenic route, probably worth avoiding, but direct.

Upper Burro Creek

A quiet section...

Upper Burro Creek

A beaver dam along the creek

Once I got back into the lower rugged section of canyon, the cow sign disappeared and I camped under a large Cottonwood on a grassy knoll above the creek. One thing you notice is the grass is not clipped here, but naturally grows out… not something you see above where the cattle roam. This section of creek was made up of a large pool about 5o yards long and about 20 wide… and deep. The Cottonwood had noticeable beaver sign along the base and sadly will probably not last much longer if they keep working it. At dusk, sure enough, out comes this beaver… I noticed this as he made his announcement by slapping the water. Apparently on an exercise run… he made about a dozen loops up and down the large pool pretty much non-stop. Beautiful night spent here.

Upper Burro Creek

Camp near the border of the wilderness

The next day I hiked back to the road. As I hit the old jeep trail, I got into hiking mode and nearly stepped on a sleeping rattler… I’m usually pretty good at spotting them, but this one was amazing in-tune with it’s environment. The coloring was nearly camouflaged with it’s surroundings. He was as startled as I was and we both jumped in opposite directions – none the worse.

Upper Burro Creek

View from camp

Saw no one along the way… no foot prints, fire rings or any sort of apparent traffic apart from the cattle. There were some sign that cattlemen occasion the area, but not much else. Looking back, I wish the area was less overrun with cattle… whenever you come across perennial water in the desert, the desert really comes to life and to see areas were the vegetation is stripped kind of makes you wonder if it’s being managed properly.

2 Comments on “Me and a few cows”

  1. says:

    What is the best time of the year to visit Burro Creek wilderness?

    • steepTrails says:

      I went in the spring — early April. Reasonable temperatures, lots of water, flowers and green grass. Saw a couple of rattlesnakes, so if you are trying to avoid them, go when it is cooler.