Whitewater Canyon, carved over millions of years by Whitewater Creek is now the home of the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. In the 1880’s the mining town of Graham stood at the mouth of the canyon. The mill required electricity and a 4″ pipeline was constructed through the canyon around 1883, often clinging to the canyon walls 20 feet above the creek, to provide water for the town and an electric generator. A larger pipeline was constructed in 1887, but today’s Catwalk Trail follows the route of the original 4″ pipeline. The town only survived for 10 years, but many of the mines up the canyon were worked into the 1940s. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) first built the Catwalk Trail in the 1930 and it was improved by the Forest Service in 1960 and has been repaired after flooding several times. The Catwalk was designated an National Recreation Trail in 1978.
It is doubtful that any of the original ironwork is used in the current trail, but evidence, including rusted bolts, hangars, and supports carved into the rock, is easy to find. The first half mile of the trail consists of evenly graded pathways and the wide steel grating with waist high walls that is universally accessible. The second half is more rugged and several bridges, one made of the old 18″ pipe, and one a swaying suspension bridge, cross the canyon.
It’s a fun place to hike and I loved seeing the creative ways the catwalk is supported on the widely varying rock walls of the canyon. We reached the end of the trail and found that Trail # 207 continued up Whitewater CreeK. Of course we did that.
Trail #207 is a pretty hike alternating from expansive views up the canyon to lush forest along the creek bed. I’m sure it’s only several hundred feet of elevation gain total, but if you add up all the ups and downs it’s a hefty hike of a couple of miles.
There was not much to see for wildlife on the hike…only this guy.
AND THIS GUY.
Cheryl, leading on the trail, came uncomfortably close to the snake; close enough that he gave her a verbal warning as he slithered off the trail into a small bush. We (humans, that is) are very lucky that rattlesnakes prefer not to be in human company and are much better at sensing our presence than we are of theirs. The snake did not slither under the bush, it actually climbed up into the bush. We figure the snake was about 30″ long. Note the wide head which is characteristic of Pit Viper venomous snakes, and the muscular body. It was a beautiful and surprisingly tough looking critter. Unfortunately we could not get a good picture of the rattles, we’ll go looking for another one…Right!
The name, Catwalk, comes from the miners that had to walk along the 4″ suspended pipeline to perform the near constant maintenance it required. They also used it for easier access from Graham to the up canyon mines.
If you’re ever in the area of Glenwood, NM I recommend you go see the Catwalk, even if you think you might not be interested in walking it. It’s a fascinating structure to see and you might surprise yourself as the first part is pretty tame.