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Take Time to Visit the Catwalk

If you ever find yourself traveling in southwest New Mexico, just a few miles over the border from Arizona, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. 


Take time to visit the Catwalk. 



Metal catwalk, above stream below, winding between narrow, tall, canyon walls.
The Catwalk Trail winds through and around the canyon walls **

It’s a little out of the way, down two-lane Highway 180, but I promise it’s worth it.


The Catwalk is just what it sounds like. This amazing metal catwalk, bolted into the side of steep canyon walls, sometimes 20 feet above the canyon floor and Whitewater Creek.


I was there in mid-May and the water below my feet was truly roaring through the canyon. I’m assuming from Spring thawing of waters further up in the mountains. You even had to be careful driving to the trailhead with a foot-and-a-half of water over the road just ahead of the parking lot.


Here’s some video I took while there:



Located in the Gila National Forest, the original Catwalk dates back to the 1890s and the small town of Graham, where they were processing ore mined from the nearby Mogollon Mountains.


Don’t go looking for Graham on a map. It only lasted about 10 years and all that’s left where it once stood near the parking area at the trailhead are some crumbling walls from the mill and rusted out metal.


Steel I-beams, secured into the canyon walls, make sure the newest Catwalk isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Steel I-beams, secured into the canyon walls, make sure the newest Catwalk isn't going anywhere anytime soon. **

As the story goes, the miners needed water for the ore processing plant in Graham, so they built a pipe up through the canyon. 


Above the pipe, they built a simple wooden walkway, the original Catwalk, the first of three.


After the mill and town of Graham closed down, that catwalk was a popular spot for hikers, but was left untouched for two or three decades, slowly crumbling away and becoming unsafe.


That was until the mid-1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (one of the major movements started by President Franklin Roosevelt to get people back to work during the Great Depression) came to the rescue, building Catwalk # 2. 


That Catwalk was much more durable and lasted nearly 70 years until, sadly, the largest known fire in New Mexico history, the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire, destroyed trees and other vegetation throughout the area. 


With nothing to slow down heavy rains, a huge flood soon poured down through the canyon, destroying large portions of the Catwalk.


Enter Catwalk # 3, an all-metal, solid, structure and the one still in place today.


The Catwalk is very accessible. It’s flat terrain and only a half mile from the park entrance. I’d guess the actual catwalk is about a half-mile in length, give or take.


Photo of blogger with view of water going over trail in background.
End of the trail. The waters pretty much washed out the trail at the end of the catwalk. **

Following the trail from the entrance, you’ll reach a fork in the road with he more accessible route to the right, over the nearby bridge. That takes you on a smooth, wide, trail up to the Catwalk.


There’s even a video on the Forest Service website of a person in a motorized wheelchair on the Catwalk. Just scroll on down the page a bit.


If you’re a hiker, I’ve read there’s more to see past the end of the Catwalk. The waters were flowing over the trail pretty fast at that point when I was there, see the end of my video above, so I decided not to tempt fate. I didn’t know how slippery the rocks would be under that water and didn’t care to break a hip if I fell.


I was able to cross the water just back a ways from the end, and make a loop out of my hike. That side of the canyon is more narrow and rocky. A wheelchair would not be able to go that way but it is an easy enough walk for a person of average ability.


There’s a $3 fee, per car, which you self-pay at the entrance from the parking lot. There’s also a pretty picnic area right there, under wide trees.


One final tidbit of trivia, just because I’m a geek for this kind of thing, the blacksmith in that little town of Graham, William Antrim, was Billy the Kid’s stepfather.


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**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.

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