Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carbonate Creek Waterfalls- Gila National Forest

If you look through the archives of this blog, you will know that I have hiked and camped at Carbonate Creek many times. It has been a good friend over the years. The last time I was out here was just a few months after the Silver Fire( See Carbonate Creek after the Silver Fire blog from October, 2013), and the canyon had changed drastically. I thought I might be done with the place. I didn't have the heart( or the time really, after a now much harder hike over rougher terrain) to see if  the beautiful maple grove  about a mile above the cabin had survived.
 Then, six months ago,that ever diligent seeker of New Mexico waterfalls, Doug Scott, tells me there are  some waterfalls further upstream than I've ever walked. Doug has never been there. He works some sort of voodoo with topo maps and Google Satellite images, and probably some kind of sixth sense as well, to divine where these waterfalls are and he is  almost always right, so off we went on Saturday morning.
 It always seems rougher and slower going up, not just because we were going uphill but because it's frequently the case that more of the old road/trail is found on the return.
Carbonate didn't suffer nearly as badly as many other canyons in the Black Range.Sadly, though, the maple grove was damaged,but I was cheered by the fact that many of the trees were growing back from their roots. In addition,there are  still many dead and downed trees,massive pile ups of rocks,gouged out side canyons  and thickets of dried out weeds that must be dealt with.  That being said, the stream had good flow,the air temperature  was perfect, and the willows were  already budding, as we happily walked up to our first  waterfalls two hours after starting out from where we parked  just off  FR 157S( Note: on the newest Aldo Leopold Wilderness Map FR 157S is now called 4088 N although on the big Gila  National Forest Map it is still called 157. On both maps the first section to Sawpit Canyon is called County Road B012)

Shortly after that, we came upon another in the narrowest part of the canyon. There were remnants of the old trail here and  and even barbed wire gate anchored to the rock above the falls.

A short walk further upstream, brought us to yet another flowing beside a massive snow drift. We kept going to one more bend in the stream to find our last one before turning around, but I believe there may be even one more even further upstream.

 Heading back down we explored up a running side stream on the north side of the main creek to find a very high zig-zaggy falls, without the prodigious flow of the main creek, but beautiful nonetheless.

 On the way back down, we looked at the old  cabin and nearby mine. We were back at our vehicles five hours after starting. I went back to Las Cruces, after eating my lunch at the Kingston Campground. Doug went off to find the Cave Creek falls further to the north on FR 157S.
 Carbonate Creek and its falls, like any water feature on the east side of the Black Range have good flow in the early spring, and in the late summer /early fall if we've had good summer rains. Much of the rest of year, I would lower my expectations considerably.


Bokismoki77 said...

Hi there. My name is Bojan, and your blog inspired me to see the waterfalls in Carbonate and Mineral Creeks. It looks very beautiful there. I am planning to lead a hike to find all those waterfalls. Please, check it out https://www.meetup.com/newmexicobackpackers/events/236653593/

I have a question for you, sir. Would that be safe and not extreme to hike Carbonate and Mineral creeks as a loop and maybe even include Hillsboro peak in it? I am not certain that hiking down, let's say, Mineral creek it would be very safe and stable. Iti s always easier to climb up than climb down. What do you think? Thanks in advance.

devon said...

That would be an extremely strenuous loop with visiting Hillsboro Peak. I'm not saying it can't be done, especially if you are backpacking,but the only actual trail will be FT 79. The old road up Carbonate is gone mostly. Mineral's road is in better shape,but above the falls there is nothing. Also, trails indicated on maps leading down from the Hillsboro Peak to upper Carbonate and Mineral Creeks are not really there and most of the crest of the Black Range was burnt pretty severely 3.5 years ago. Your best bet would be to park near one or the other an then backtrack to do the second one. This way you could do both in a long day, especially if you drove the mile or two between them on FS 157S. If you are going soon,expect where the upper falls are on Carbonate to have snow that could be deep. Mineral is more sunny and open,but there could be snow there as well. Climbing down or even around( using what's left of an old mine road) Mineral Falls is not that easily done especially with larger pack.

Bokismoki77 said...

Thanks for the quick reply.

Bokismoki77 said...

Your blogging provides great info about the area, so I will be reading it and visiting the places you described. It is very valuable to us.