Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gila National Forest, NM: The Catwalk

Catwalk, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Credit: USFS

I saw photos of the Catwalk in the Gila National Forest some years ago, and read about its interesting history, and was immediately attracted. So when my sister arrived for a visit and expressed an interest in going to the Gila National Forest, I was ready.

Something to know about the Gila National Forest is that: 1) it is immense and 2) access to one north-south half is a considerable travel distance from the other north-south half. If, for example, you want to visit both the Catwalk and the Gila Cliff Dwellings, you'll need - realistically - one day for each.

Catwalk, Gila National Forest, New Mexico

To get to the Catwalk, you take Highway 180 from Silver City, follow it up to Glenwood, and then take a jog to the northeast.

En route, you'll pass the pleasant Aldo Leopold Vista picnic area, about 50 miles north of Silver City. Nice latrines there, pretty views. Covered picnic tables.

Aldo Leopold Vista, Highway 180, New Mexico

Aldo Leopold Vista, Highway 180, New Mexico

We didn't know about this great place, thus turned off a little sooner for our lunch in front of this fine scenic view.

Highway 180, north of Silver City, New Mexico


The good news about the Catwalk is that it had been closed entirely for awhile, but now part of it is open. The bad news is - only part of it is open. We were able to see enough of the Catwalk to really yearn for the rest.

Catwalk, Gila National Forest, New Mexico

A gentleman at the park told us that a few years ago during a forest fire, the park management folks made the difficult, but proactive, decision to dismantle the suspended walking bridge that goes alongside and over the canyon river. This was in anticipation of many burned, dead logs falling through the river and getting jammed up at the points where the bridge crossed the river. A side benefit of dismantling the bridge was to give the much-loved recreation area a rest from the heavy tourist traffic. The gentleman explained that the park intended to postpone rebuilding the bridge for yet another year, but the village of Glenwood was really suffering from the drop in tourist traffic, thus the partial opening of the Catwalk now. How accurate all of this is, I don't know.

Below is a good video of the pre-fire-flood Catwalk trail. Enjoy.

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