Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation Trail
A scenic drive to Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation seemed the perfect diversion on our last day in Silver City. An hour and a half on US 180 dropped us into a narrow canyon where Geronimo and his band of Apache warriors hid from Army soldiers in the 1800s. Butch Cassidy also found the canyon as a good hiding place from Pinkerton detectives and miners tried their luck digging for silver and gold. Today visitors come to the canyon to escape the heat, swim in the creek, and hike along the catwalk.
When John T. Graham constructed a mill at the mouth of the Whitewater Canyon in 1893 to serve the silver and gold mines further up the canyon, a town was born. Water in the creek did not always provide a constant supply for the mill and the town.
This need spurred the construction of a 4-inch water pipeline attached to the canyon walls above Whitewater Creek and stretching three miles into the canyon. Four years later an 18-inch pipeline was installed to provide more water, but required constant repair. The pipeline earned its name as the Catwalk due to repairmen, loaded down with tools, performing balancing acts atop the pipeline as they navigated their way to repair a breach.
After the mill closed in 1913, the brick, wood, and metal used in constructing the buildings were removed and scrapped, and the residents left town, leaving only remnants of the mill’s foundation.
The area returned to a natural state until 1930 when the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the catwalk, which hikers used until 1961. At that time, the Forest Service constructed the steel walkways. Fires, floods, and landslides have caused damage through the years requiring extensive repairs.
The structure currently runs a span of .5 miles where a bridge once stood allowing hikers to continue up the canyon. Always wanting to know what is beyond the next bend or over the next rise, we stood on one side of Whitewater Creek looking for a way across to the other side. It wasn’t happening without getting wet, so we gave it a pass.
We admired the tall sycamores that lined the creek as we made our way back to the picnic area where we enjoyed our lunch in the shade. The creek gurgled a few feet away, squirrels scurried from bush to bush and climbed into the trees, and several types of birds called out to each other. Crowds can grow thick during the summer and on weekends, but we encountered little traffic while there. Rocks and leaves in Whitewater Creek produced a colorful scene to play with abstract photography.
On our drive to and from Whitewater, we passed through another town with the same name as one in the Bay Area. Pleasanton, New Mexico, with a current population of around 100, was founded in 1882 by Mormons.
Anglers might want to take a cutoff to Bill Evans Dam where they can try their luck. The Dodge Corporation constructed the dam in 1969 to capture water for use in their mining operation near Tyrone, New Mexico.
Be sure to make a stop at the Aldo Leopold Vista. It is a great place to take in the wide open expanse of the Gila National Forest. Leopold is considered by some as the father of wildlife conservation in the United States and a proponent for the American wilderness movement of the early 1900s.
City of Rocks
We had one last stop to make before leaving New Mexico and entering Arizona. The short 45-minute drive from Silver City to City of Rocks afforded us an opportunity to grab a spot for the night in the State Park.
Obviously, all of the full hookup sites were either occupied or reserved, but we managed to find a space for our rig nestled among the boulders.
Volcanic eruption and erosion during the past 34.9 million years sculpted the rock columns that reach a height of 40 feet and the paths and lanes that resemble city streets. The unique formations of the “city” reminded me of the Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.
The park contains a total of 7.5 miles of hiking and biking trails. Besides camping and hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, birding, and of course photography opportunities make this park a great place to spend a day or a few nights. Campers will find 64 campsites to choose from, some are reserve only while others are first to come gets to camp. Restrooms and showers are available at the visitor center for campers. Vault toilets are also located throughout the campground.
The botanical garden includes information signs with the names of the different cactus plants. We took the Hydra Trail nearby then cut off on the vault 3 spur trail back to our campground.
Like naming clouds in the sky we entertained ourselves by making up names for the rock formations as we scrambled over and through the boulders on the Planet Walk Trail.
We had seen signs for an observatory that is located in the group camping area. Unfortunately, they weren’t offering any night time sky programs during our stay.
I tried making some nighttime photos. Obviously, I didn’t get the settings right because none of the photos turned out. The next morning, though, dawned with a beautiful sunrise.
With my shoes on my feet, a jacket over my pajamas, beanie on my head, and camera in hand I was ready to greet the light.
After a quick breakfast, we stretched our legs on the Hydra trail on the east side of the campground looping around Pegasus campground before hopping in the truck for our four-hour drive to Tucson, Arizona.
It is always nice when a bird is kind enough to pose for a wildlife photo.
Even though the campground filled up for the night, it didn’t feel crowded or noisy. We’ll consider stopping at City of Rocks State Park the next time we are driving through New Mexico on Interstate 10. The half-hour drive north of Deming will be worth it to spend time among the boulders and away from the freeway noise.
We’ll be taking a digital holiday for a week or so, but we plan to be back with our next post on June 21, 2018.