Global Range: (5000-200,000 square km (about 2000-80,000 square miles)) Range is confined to the Gila River basin, Arizona and New Mexico (Minckley and DeMarais 2000, Page and Burr 2011). Voeltz (2002) determined that this species likely occurred in a number of tributaries of the Verde River, most of the Tonto Creek drainage, much of the San Carlos River drainage, and parts of the upper Gila River in New Mexico. Currently, the species occupies the East, Middle, and West forks of the Gila River, and may occupy lower Turkey Creek below a barrier in that stream and the Gila River below the forks area in New Mexico, although these fish have not been definitively identified. In Arizona, headwater chubs are believed to currently occupy: tributaries of the Verde River including Fossil Creek, East Verde River (including tributaries The Gorge, Pine Creek, and Webber Creek), Wet Bottom Creek, and Deadman Creek; and Tonto Creek and several of its tributaries (Buzzard Roost, Dinner, Gordon, Gun, Haigler, Marsh, Rock, Spring, Turkey creeks). The present status of this species in Deadman Creek and Turkey Creek is unclear; fires in the watersheds may have eliminated headwater chub in these waters. Other waters connected to Turkey Creek still contain headwater chubs, so there is opportunity for repopulation of this creek. Headwater chubs may still occur in parts of the San Carlos River basin, although recent survey information for these streams is unavailable because San Carlos Tribal survey information is proprietary and confidential. The taxonomic status of the Gila population in upper West Clear Creek has not been definitively resolved; currently that population is not included in the range of Gila nigra. Source: USFWS (2011), which see for further specific documentation.
Bestgen and Propst (1989) reported headwater chubs in the upper Gila River basin of New Mexico at elevations of 1,325-2,000 meters (4,347-6,562 feet). Unpublished elevational records from the Arizona's Heritage Data Management System range from about 1,200 meters (4,200 feet) in Fossil Creek to nearly 1,520 meters (5,000 feet) in Marsh Creek (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2003).