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.