White Mountains Online

Mainstem Black River


Arizona's White Mountains

7,500' to 6,600'

May through October


19 miles


This section encompasses the East Fork below Buffalo Crossing and the mainstem of the river from the confluence of the east and west forks to the reservation boundary.

Below Buffalo Crossing the Black River and the road part company as the stream begins to drop more steeply toward its confluence with the White River deep within the Fort Apache and San Carlos Apache Indian Reservations. The river enters a large canyon here, and the streambed becomes more rocky with fewer pools and longer riffles. Forested slopes dose in to narrow the streamside riparian zone and access becomes more limited.

This area is popular with trout anglers trying to find better fishing along more remote stretches of the stream, but it also attracts other forest recreationists as well. The scenery is great and there's a good chance you'll see some interesting wildlife, including black bear which are relatively plentiful here. The only road that leads directly to the river in this out of the way area is FR 25, which crosses the mainstem of the Black at Wildcat Bridge. Fish Creek Access Trail serves as the sole developed and maintained trail into the area, but there are a number of unmarked and unmaintained paths used regularly by trout anglers and other riverside recreators that provide additional access.

Streamside paths extend down-river from Buffalo Crossing and both up and downstream from Wildcat Bridge. These trails are more regularly used and easier to find near their departure points. Farther from those points, the canyon floor defines the route. Shorter access to areas deep within the canyon is provided by paths leading from points where forest roads come reasonably close to the canyon’s inner reaches. One such path follows Bear Creek from FR 24 about a mile to a point on the Black about 5 miles downstream from Buffalo Crossing. Additional access from the south is provided by the Fish Creek Access Trail #320, from the end of FR 25B (See the Fish Creek Access page of this guide for more detailed information.) and the McKibbons Trail off the McKibbons Pond Road off FR 25.

From the north side of the river, access is available via a trail from the end of FR 25G, the road to the Kettle Holes area. This mile long route follows the Centerfire Creek drainage to the river. All except Fish Creek and Fish Creek Access trails are better described as routes rather than established trails.

Drive south from Alpine 14.5 miles on US 191 (formerly US 666) to FR 26. Follow FR 26 about 9.5 miles to FR 24. From this point you can turn left (southwest) about 1.5 miles to Bear Creek for that access route, or turn right (northeast) 3 miles to FR 25 where you'll turn left 1.5 miles to Buffalo Crossing and access to the un-maintained trail that follows the river downstream. FR 25 continues west 12.8 miles to Wildcat Bridge.

Trail Log:

  • 0.0 Buffalo Crossing, trail heads downstream.
  • 5.0 Bear Creek confluence.
  • 11.0 Centerfire Creek confluence.
  • 11.4 Junction with Fish Creek and Fish Creek Trail.
  • 12.9 Wildcat Bridge.
  • 15.0 Junction with McKibbons Pond route.
  • 19.0 San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation Boundary.
For current information on trail conditions, please contact the Alpine Ranger District: P.O. Box 469, Alpine, AZ 85920, (520) 339-4384. For more information, please feel free to contact the USDA Forest Service, Alpine Ranger District.