The Catwalk Trail
The Catwalk Trail starts in Whitewater Canyon, which played a pivotal role in the mining saga of the late 1800s and early 1990s. The town of Graham was located at the mouth of the canyon where a mill was built in 1893. The ruins of the mill still cling to the canyon walls overlooking the picnic area.
A water pipeline along Whitewater Canyon was also built in 1893 to provide water for the mill and town. It ran up the very narrow stretches of the canyon, sometimes as much as 20 feet above the canyon floor, and was considered to be an engineering feat in its time. The pipeline was in need of constant maintenance and the workmen who walked the line to repair damage dubbed it the “Catwalk.”
In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a trail consisting of a hanging walkway following the path of the old pipeline. The Forest Service rebuilt the trail in 1961, and in 1978 it was designated a National Recreation Trail. Only the first half mile is open right now because of trail damage beyond. Still, it was impressive and beautiful.
Founded in 1876, historic Mogollon sits at 6,500 feet in the Mogollon Range of the mountains of the Gila Wilderness. In the late 1800s, with the discovery of rich veins of ore on Silver Creek, Mogollon was one of the West’s wildest and richest mining towns. Mining continued up to the 1950s and resumed for a short time in the 1970s before coming to a halt.
In its heyday Mogollon boasted a population of some 3,000 to 6,000 souls and, because of its isolation, was truly one of the wildest, shoot-’em-up mining towns in the West. There were five saloons, two restaurants, four mercantiles, two hotels, and numerous brothels located in two infamous red light districts. The town had a photographer, the Midway Theatre, an ice maker, and a bakery. There was daily stage service between Mogollon and Silver City. The stagecoach transported passengers, commodities, and gold and silver bullion. The 80 mile journey took 15 hours and it was often a harrowing ride. One particularly tenacious thief robbed the stagecoach 23 times between 1872 and 1873.
Today, Mogollon is an interesting ghost town comprised of old wooden and adobe buildings and nearby mining sites with only a handful of hardy year-round resident. We parked at one end and walked through town. During the week nothing is open but you can still walk around and imagine life in the wild west.
The drive up here is harrowing on a narrow, sometimes one lane road that twists and turns the whole way. That alone is an adventure!
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