Floods, fires and washed out roads are all possibilities in the Catwalk Recreational Area. This area has quite a history of natural disasters yet the state continues to rebuild this remote area in the Gila National Wilderness for us all to enjoy. The scenic 66 mile drive from Silver City took us through beautiful, sprawling ranch land with spectacular formations and mountains in the background. Little did we know, that we would be thwarted from our adventure just 3 miles from the Catwalks Trailhead.
I was really looking forward to this adventure and really wasn’t paying much attention to these signs along Hwy 159 which takes you the final 5 miles to the Catwalks. Yes, there is still a bit of snow on those mountains that I saw on the drive up but there hasn’t been any rain up here since we arrived.
As we came over a rise on Hwy 159 I was really surprised to see this torrent of water rushing over the road into a small water fall. Well, that and the cars stopped at the edge of the water gave us some pause for concern. No one seemed to be crossing and we sure did not want to be “those people” you see on the evening news who’s car get swept away by a fast, raging river.
After some discussion, we turned Ernie around and headed up towards Mogollon where I read there was a ghost town. Well, that road was closed up about 12 miles but we found a possible trail down to the catwalk which we could see after bush whacking our way to the canyon edge. We could literally see the Catwalk parking area below as well as another area of flooded road right before the parking lot. Double Damn!!
Again, after some discussion we decided we weren’t prepared for the rustic trail with at least a thousand feet of elevation gain and possibility of rattlesnake as companions. Entries in the trail log book weren’t encouraging either, so turn around again we did.
Hungry and ready for lunch, we decided to take our picnic back to the area where the road was underwater. Wally’s theory was that it might have lessened. I liked his optimism and upon arrival at the area it did indeed look more passable. Still undecided, a SUV came through with no problems and after a quick chat with the driver, we learned that we would not have to cross the second flooded area as a trail on the other side would take us to the Catwalks trail. Double yippee skippee!
Feeling confident, we forded the stream and whooped in delight after we made it through with no drama and no chance of being on the evening news.
We have been to a lot of National Parks and Monuments, but the Catwalk National Recreation Trail at Whitewater Picnic Area is something special. The trail follows Whitewater Creek into a narrow, scenic canyon and then traverses a metal grid walkway right above the creek. The infrastructure for the trail was originally built to support a pipeline that carried water to a mill that crushed ore for gold and silver mines in the area. After the mill closed, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) rebuilt the structure into a trail as a recreation attraction for the Gila National Forest. Floods have damaged the Catwalk many times over the years, requiring repairs. The most-recent repairs were completed in 2016, but the trail was currently only open for 1/2 mile into the canyon as huge boulders have fallen into the creek bed. It was a nice, easy 1 mile loop with a footbridge to get us back across the water that gushed out of the narrow canyon.
Bonus points for the Javelina spotting – sorry no pictures as they are fast on their feet. I was happy to see 4 large adults heading across a small side road and not darting out in front of us. So worth the drive and so glad we didn’t give up. Just another day for the recently retired adventurers!