I arrived late in the evening, so I dry camped overnight for free at Bighorn Campground. It had about a half dozen spots with picnic tables, fire rings and a vault toilet nearby. It was a very convenient location just on the north edge of town.
My goal was to visit the Catwalk National Recreation Trail in Whitewater Canyon, just five miles up a paved round off of US-180. A boardwalk suspended from the cliff walls takes you up a narrow canyon with spectacular views. It has become a popular side trip; but, it was closed.
A fierce flood in the fall of 2013, caused massive damage to the canyon walls, and sent huge boulders down Whitewater Creek. Trees were crushed and boulders filled the creek bed. These photos are of the lower portion; further up the canyon it was supposed to be even worse.
The Catwalk was severely damaged in multiple spots; it being torn from the canyon wall in some instances. A ranger said that they have repaired it in the past from other floods. However, due to the extent of damage, they may not fix it this time.
The trail is blocked off and closed at 3/8 mile in, where the Catwalk portion begins. I was really disappointed. Thankfullly, the picnic area, next to the parking lot and along the creek, has been cleaned up and is now open.
It’s still a beautiful location on the edge of the Gila Wilderness. Perhaps the trip would not be wasted with a stop at Mogollón, a ghost town just a few miles up the highway. But alas, it too was damaged by the flood and is closed until 2015.
Camp: Gila NF – Bighorn CG
Scene: Cliffs, creek, rocks
Also see: Catwalk Revisited