TONTO NATIONAL FOREST IN GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA
The Tonto National Forest, located in Gila Country, Arizona embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim.
The variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 feet) on the Tonto provides outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forests.
In the winter, visitors flock to Arizona to enjoy the multi-hued stone canyons and Sonoran Desert environments of the Tonto’s lower elevations. In the summer, visitors seek refuge from the heat at the Salt and Verde rivers and their cool lakes and streams.
Eight Wilderness Areas are managed to protect the unique natural character of the land. Portions of the Verde River have been designated by Congress as Arizona’s first and only Wild and Scenic River Area.
Fish and wildlife are abundant on the Tonto; more than 400 vertebrate species are represented, including 21 listed among federal and state Threatened and Endangered Species.
Six man-made reservoirs on the Salt and Verde Rivers and the flowing portions of these rivers provide an abundance of water-related recreation. Power-boating, sailing, water-skiing, swimming, rafting, and tubing are some of the more popular recreation activities on the Forest's lakes and waterways. World-class white water can be experienced on the upper stretches of the Salt River.
The Tonto National Forest has much to offer boating enthusiasts. Some people choose the larger lakes for water-skiing and power boating. Others opt for the quiet seclusion of a narrow lake arm extending between two near-vertical canyon walls.
A broad range of opportunities are available to overnight campers. Many forest areas are open for those who do not require any amenities or services. You may even boat-camp at a remote spot on the shore of one of the reservoirs located on the Tonto. Several developed campgrounds are located at higher elevations and are open in the warmer months of the year.
The Tonto National Forest has a collection of nearly 900 miles of trails. Their primary purpose is to provide a variety of opportunities for hikers, bikers and equestrians to enjoy the beauty and challenge of nature. The Tonto National Forest has established two areasfor the dedicated use of Off-Highway Vehicles.
There are many points of interest on the Tonto National Forest. Among the most noted are the Scenic Byways on State Route 88, and State Route 288, as well as the Roosevelt Lake Wildlife Viewing Area.
The Tonto National Forest has a rich heritage reaching thousands of years into the past. Originally home to several prehistoric Indian groups who hunted and gathered wild plants in the Mazatzal Mountains and Sierra Ancha and along the Salt and Verde Rivers and their tributaries, it was colonized more than a thousand years ago by a related group of people known today as the Hohokam.