Monday, December 02, 2013

Gila Catwalk, Gone for good?

Fires and flooding in the Gila National Forest in recent years have left the future of the popular Catwalk trail near Glenwood in a precarious position. The recent flooding, in fact, has closed the trail indefinitely. “The September 13 storm was localized, and Whitewater Canyon received seven inches of rain in a five- to eight-hour period of time,” said Pat Morrison, the Glenwood District ranger for the National Forest Service. “Two and a half times more water came down the canyon than usual,” she said of the September storms. “This happened because of erosion caused by the Whitewater Baldy Fire in 2012.” After the Whitewater Baldy fire, the upper portion of the Catwalk was closed due to flooding concerns. Four bridges along the trail were removed because they had the potential to become dams for debris. Last summer, the popular trail was only open in the morning in case it rained in the afternoon. The Catwalk, originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is made up of sections of hanging metal walkways that follow an old pipeline. The trail was re-built by the U.S. Forest Service in 1961, and has become the second most visited location in the Gila National Forest, according to Morrison. Some 30,000 people from around the world visit the Catwalk annually. But the trail has a history that goes beyond that. In the 1890s, the town of Graham was located at the mouth of Whitewater Canyon in what is now the Glenwood Ranger District of the Gila National Forest. The town was home to silver and gold miners who worked in a mine further up the canyon. A water pipeline was installed along Whitewater Canyon in 1893 to provide water for the mill and town. Sometimes suspended as high as 20 feet above the canyon floor, the pipeline, which was in constant need of repair, was dubbed the “Catwalk” by the workmen assigned to fix it...more

No comments: