CatWalk on the Wild Side

Who would have guessed that in an arid southwestern area there is a free flowing creek that has shores hugged by sycamores, oaks and abundant wildlife such as bighorn sheep, mule deer and exotic bird life?

Five miles northeast from the small town of Glenwood, New Mexico is a road that leads to the mouth of Whitewater Canyon to the infamous “Catwalk.”  Named appropriately because of a pipeline built in the 1890’s to deliver water to the mining town of Graham.  The pipe up Whitewater Creek was only 18 inches in diameter and the men who worked on it needed nerves of steel and balance of a cat to walk the pipeline, hence the name, Catwalk.  Even today with a metal walkway with four foot high metal mesh sides running on top of the pipeline, you feel suspended in mid-air.

Screen shot 2013-05-31 at 2.08.54 PMThis 250 foot metal causeway clings to the sides of a boulder-choked canyon, which in some places is only 20 feet wide and 250 feet deep, so narrow you can almost touch the sides.  However, there are many places where you can leave the causeway and relax on the grassy banks of a sycamore shaded stream.

In frontier days, the canyon was used as a hideout by both Butch Cassidy and Victorio’s Apaches.  In the 1930’s the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) rebuilt the Catwalk as a recreation area for the Gila National Forest.   In the 1960’s, the Forest Service rebuilt the metal walkway and several times since due to occasional flooding of Whitewater Creek.

As you enter the winding dirt trail into the narrow canyon, the metal walkway looms ahead bolted to the narrow canyon walls where there is no room to cut a trail.  Between the creaking metal grates of the Catwalk, you can see the swiftly running water below.

The Catwalk ends at a cavern ledge overlooking a thunderous waterfall. To the left of the narrow bridge is the Whitewater Trail that continues to the old pumping house.  Beyond the pump house, for those more daring and energetic, is a more difficult trail, continuing on another 14 miles to a 10,000 foot ridge in the Mogollon Mountains.

This is a perfect adventure for the whole family and a wonderful way to spend a warm summer day because only at high noon does the sun find its way into the deep dark canyon, therefore keeping the trail cool for most of the day.

Directions:  The Catwalk is located 5 miles east of Glenwood, New Mexico on US Highway 180 past the Glenwood Hatchery.  The Catwalk turnoff is on FS174.

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