Passage 16 – Gila River Canyons

March 28, 2017

The “Project of Many Moving Parts” installed AZT gates number 42 and 43 in the riparian area just north of the railroad trestle, below the AZT completion monument. BLM helped fund machine maintenance over the passage, now 5-6 six years since completion. An assessment in March of 2016 showed where the trail needed tweaking and the machine makes it go much quicker. The plan was to choreograph the trail machine, access via the railroad, and a volunteer crew to install the two gates in grazing allotment fences. Amazingly, it all came together with only a couple hitches.
Machine work going steeply downhill is pretty tricky; the machine can pull itself over so safe going was much slower than anticipated, necessitating a schedule change from the initial plan. The railroad fellows and the volunteers understood and waited for the all clear from the machine operator. The soil at the first gate location appeared to be pretty much soft sand, giving hope of a quick job. But the sand just hid the suitcase-size rocks and large tree roots embedded below. After a few minutes the digging was going nowhere. A 24-inch relocation encountered the same. It wasn’t that the crew encountered rocks; it was that they encountered ROCK, just one, the full bottom of the hole was one rock slab!

The excavator was pressed into service to dislodge these boulders, the crew formed up the concrete footings and all proceeded nicely. In a repeat of the March 10th gate installation, customer #1 came along just as the finishing touches were being made to the second gate. We didn’t get a name, but the young fellow was on his way to Oracle.

A special thank you goes to the folks at Copper Basin Railroad and ASARCO who have provided critical support for projects in the area over the years. Road Master Ed remarked that they had hauled an excavator in to the area a few years ago. This had to have been 2011 or 2012 when the trail was being built. And thanks to stalwart volunteers John, Tom, Lee, David, Bill, Roger, Richard, Rob, Laddie, Scott, and Steve who don’t know the word “no” when asked to get involved in these trail projects.

Shawn Redfield