Gleeson Flat

On the Salt River, South side is Tonto National Forest,
North side is on the White Mountain Apache reservation and you need a permit.

You can get a driving day permit online at the White Mountain Apache reservation site, just pay and print, this really is the no hassel way to get permission to drive on the reservation.
Those who have been with me on one of my trips will know that a minimum amount of instruction is given each shotgun rider in the art of photography. At any moment I may pass the camera to the shotgun rider and ask them to photograph something. I may do it myself... or not... so knowing exactly whose hand snapped the shutter is of no concequence since I claim them all. However, if you have ridden shotgun with me, thank you for helping with the pictures! If you recognize any as yours please contact me at!
The above slideshow is of photos from the Salt River Canyon west to just past Canyon Creek.

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Gleason Flat is so named due to a rancher named Edward Gleason. He ran cattle in the flats of the Salt River and I imagine they grazed pretty much on both sides of the river, cattle seem to know no bounds. Much like some people on our southern borders. Sometime late on July 8 or early on July 9, 1882 Edward and Franciso Coma were attacked and killed by Nan-tio-tish and his Apache raiders fresh off the San Carlos reservation. Today, no one knows where the ranch house was, or even if there was a ranch house. But the flats are still there and I imagine they still hold the bones of Edward and Francisco!

Over many years I have had the pleasure of trekking into and out of Gleeson Flat. Until a few years ago I was on a quest to learn of the site in respect to the Battle of Big Dry Wash. These flats were inportant to that battle because this is where the battalion from Fort Apache met up with the battalion from Fort Thomas on the evening of July 12, 1882.
Since the battalion from Fort Thomas had been on the trail of Nan-tio-tish he was allowed to proceed in the lead position on the 13th. But the horses were worn out and the trail was very rough and they only made a few miles that day... so on the 14th the battalion from Fort Apache took the lead and made up some time on the renegade Apache band.
They actually arrived at the battle site in time for all troops to engage Nan-tio-tish in the Battle of Big Dry Wash!

Edward Gleeson and Francisco Coma were running cattle in the flats soon to be known as Gleeson Flat. The date was July 9,1882 and Nan-tio-tish had been off the reservation since the 7th when they attacked the mining camp of McMillenville. On the 6th they killed six police and raided the Agency at San Carlos.
Gleeson and Coma were killed that day and the area was named after Edward.
Nan-tio-tish next target was the Middleton Ranch, which they attacked on the 10th about lunch time... no one killed but the Globe Irregular Militia lost all their horses along with the Middleton's and they all had to walk 65 miles back to Globe. Humbling experience.

Three ways to get there!

Salt River Canyon

Take US60 northeast out of Globe and pass the Historical Marker that was there to point out that McMillenville was once a town of nearly 2000 souls and continue on past Jones Water campground, Seneca and other diversions and soon you will come to the top of the southern side of the Salt River Canyon... I urge you to stop at one of the pull off areas, or all of them, and make that a Kodak Moment... or a Kodak hour if you wish! Continue to the bottom of the Canyon, cross over the river and look for a turnoff to the left or west... it will lead to a multi-purpose area and you will have to figure out where the road is that you want... it’s the one that goes west out of that somewhat confusing area... once found, you stay on that canyon road, crossing Cibeque Creek and Canyon Creek before dropping into gleason Flat between Canyon Creek Butte and Medicine Butte. Be sure and stop often and take photos. Deer, Quail, Gila Monsters, Rattlers, and all kinds of flora exist and can be seen if you are quiet and careful!

Cherry Creek approach

From the 188 road, take the Young road north. Cross the Salt River at the southern end of Lake Roosevelt and continue to the Cherry Creek Road. Turn right on the Cherry Creek road, cross Coon Creek, pass by the Dagger Ranch, cross over Cherry Creek and start north on the 203 road and watch for the 96 road a mile or so from the creek. Turn east (right) on the Forest Service Road 96 and continue to the ridge top. You will pass the reservation boundary markers by then, there the road splits. Go east down the ridge in front of Medicine Butte and you will head towards the river at the only chance you get at a turn. When done at the river backtract to the intersection and take the road east all the way to the Salt River Canyon... also stop for each Kodak moment, and look around on the ground each time... something pretty and valuable comes in little packages!

Seven Mile Wash

Take US60 northeast out of Globe and pass the Historical Marker that was there to point out that McMillenville was once a town of nearly 2000 souls. About three miles past McMillenville or 12 miles from Globe there is a turnoff to the left at about the sme place the "Jones Water" campground signs lead you to the right. This is a beautiful way to get to gleason Flat, it passes the Griffin Ranch, the Adobe Ranch and the Haystack Ranch. As part of the Battle of Big Dry Wash, Nan-tio-tish and his band struck at McMillenville then proceeded along this path to get to gleason Flat where they killed Edward gleason and Francisco Coma. The Battalion that followed Nan-tio-tish from the San Carlos Agency to McMillenville was from Fort Thomas and they met the Fort Apache Battalion on July 12, 1882 at gleason Flat.

Any direction you travel to arrive at gleason Flat will take you through some very beautiful country. Country that only a few Arizonan's see. But I would be remiss if failed to stress the possibilities found from the vast expanses to the smallest flower! All are important for you to stop and examine! This is not a time trial, if you leave the Phoenix area at 7 a.m. you should not expect to return until at least 7 p.m. or later, else you rushed the trip. Take water and food and do not go in the summer, it is just too hot and that makes it too dangerous.

Flora along the way...

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Hedgehog Cactus
Echinocereus engelmannii

...the purple to magenta flowers and usually four well-armed central spines help to identify this common desert cactus. A single specimen may consist of up to 60 spiny cylindrical stems in a clump up to 3 ft (1 m) wide. This group was found roadside coming from Seven Mile wash up to the Salt at gleason Flat. This route passes the Griffin Ranch, the Adobe Ranch and the Haystack Ranch before the road drops off into gleason Flat. Twenty plus miles of Arizona beauty.

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Coulter's Globe Mallow
Sphaeralcea coulteri

Fairly common in lower elevations of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. They seem to prefer sandy terraces near washes or the loose soil. They depend on good winter rains. This bunch was found on the reservation between the Salt River Canyon and Cherry Creek Crossing. If you are going north on Route 60 into the Salt River Canyon, take a left turn after the bridge and before the old store. This road will take you all the way to the Cherry Creek Crossing and on to Roosevelt Lake. Most of the road is on the reservation so you need a permit to use the road. But it is well worth the time and effort.

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Jimson Weed
Datura Stramonium

From Wikipedia: For centuries, datura has been used as a herbal medicine to relieve asthma symptoms and as an analgesic during surgery or bonesetting. It is also a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, which is used spiritually for the intense visions it produces. However, the tropane alkaloids which are responsible for both the medicinal and hallucinogenic properties are fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage, and careless use often results in hospitalizations and deaths.
This plant is found all along the way from Salt River Canyon to gleason Flat, so watch it!

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A Beautiful Butte
One of many along this trail

The valley that the Salt River has made over some millions of years has presented a challenge to the early settlers and military alike. Not so much for the Apache, they were not in any real hurry to get anywhere in that area. After all they lived there, it was home for several months of the year. Colonel A. W. Evans wrote a report about his sorte out from Fort Apache to the Battle of Big Dry Wash and he talks considerable about trying to find a trail that goes along the Salt... but as he found the side walls are too steep to allow good travel parallel to the river so they had to back off and come to the river in places where there were natural flats as in gleason Flats. And his battallion and that of Captain Drew from Fort Thomas met and camped in these flats on July 12, 1882. They were both in pursuit of Nan-tio-tish and his band that came off the San Carlos reservation.

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Canyon Creek Butte
The Creek with that name is on the other side of the butte

Canyon Creek Butte is a landmark that is awsome coming from the south down to the Salt River, or coming from the east over Canyon Creek itself! The road from the east comes into gleason Flat by way of the Medicine Butte Ranch turnoff and then splits Canyon Creek Butte and Medicine Butte as you get close to the flats. Beautiful country, full of ridges and buttes and color changes with each passing hour...

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Canyon Creek Crossing
Rock Bottom creek bed

On Route 260 as you gain the Mogollon Rim and pass the Young Road exit you soon come upon a sign along side the road that says "Canyon Creek" on the rim. The creek flows from there down to the fish hatchery then past the OW Ranch, then on to the White Mountain Apache reservation and past Chediski Peak, heading south in a meandering way until it passes Mustang Ridge, then heads for the Salt River past Canyon Creek Butte. Most of the times I have been to that crossing I was in a hurry to get to the other side, not that I was late or we had some schedule malfunction... its more like the hardest passage on the trip and once, after the Rodeo/Chediski fire I had to turn back because the creek was lined with ash from the fire and it was like sticky mud out about 8 feet from each side and seemed to be several feet deep... my truck wouldn't go there and be safe. So we backtracked and still had a great time.

Keep your eyes open for the small things, too!...

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Flowers of the fields
in the Spring especially...

These are a patch of The Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia mexicana). Note It Is More Gold In The Center! Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) the vertical blue-violet flowers. If the winter rains are somewhat generous, be sure that the foot hills will contain many many wildflowers.

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Mother Nature at work, erosion in process
farm soil in another few million years.

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Gila Monster
Ansel Abernathy took the photo, Good job Diane.

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Dave Ricker and Jim McBride
Fixed a few flats and shared some long treks with these guys.

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Canyon Creek Butte and Hay Stack Butte across the Salt
The Creek with that name is on this side of the butte

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Canyon Creek Crossing looking South

Salt River is about a mile that-a-way > > >
Was with Dick and Mary Lou Elzer heading East at this point just a month or so after the Rodeo-Chediski fire. Ash, twigs and debris from the fire came down Canyon Creek and had all but the center 4 feet of the creek clogged up... we had to turn back!