Dedicated to GPSJoe for Track
Back in 2009 GPSJoe sent me a track of this hike and told me how wonderful it was. I finally got to check it out and he was right.
From a sign at the site: "The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge. The original Verde River Sheep Bridge, also known as the Red Point Sheep Bridge, was constructed at this location in 1943 by Flagstaff Sheep Company, which had been grazing sheep in the area under a Forest Service permit since 1926..."
"Erected with hand tools and a few mules during World War II, the bridge was constructed largely with salvaged materials. Overall length of the structure from cable anchorage to cable anchorage was 691 feet, and the distance between the towers was 568 feet. The walkway was 476 feet long and three feet wide. The towers originally were constructed with wood, as was the walkway. Soon after the bridge was completed, the wooden towers were reinforced with concrete buttresses. Each main suspension cable consisted of a pair of... lock-coil, spiral strands, which were obtained from an abandoned tramway that carted copper ore..." Only the towers of the old bridge remain.
"Although several other bridges of this type previously had been built in Arizona, Verde River Sheep Bridge was the last of its kind in the Southwest when it was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In 1988, weakened by years of service and floods, the bridge was disassembled. In 1989 the bridge found here today was erected. Reminiscent of the original structure, the new bridge recalls the ingenuity of the pioneer sheepmen and a way of ranching that has virtually disappeared from the Arizona scene."
Many remnants from this bridge are still visible at the site.
This is a loop hike through the remote western Mazatzal's. You start out low (2,100) and climb high (5,000). You loop the Willow Springs, Dutchman Grave and the Verde River Trail. You get awesome views and Vistas on almost every step of the loop. You go from high desert to the mountains.
You cross the Sheep Bridge and follow the foot path down to a wash (Horse Creek). Be sure to cross and not take the spur trail that follows the creek/wash. In a short distance you'll come across signed intersection. This is where the loop begins and ends. This is the intersection of the Verde River Trail (11) and Willow Spring Trail (223). You can hike clockwise or counter. For this hike I did it counterclockwise. You take the Willow Spring trail and climb a little hill. The trail starts out very flat and open. It's well marked and worn. About 2 miles in you'll pass the Mazatzal Wilderness sign, then a gate. The trail will start to slowly climb and follow the Horse creek. Then the trail climbs more aggressively. The trail comes to a saddle with a signed intersection for the Willow Spring. I've been told this spring flows perennially. Stay on the Willow Spring Trail. You'll climb to the high point of 5,020 and then drop down into a wash. You'll come across a couple of intersections for the Mountain Spring (perennial), Deadman Trail (25), Davenport Wash trail (89). Continue towards the Mountain Spring and then you'll come across another intersection with for the Dutchman Grave(22), Red hills (262). Take the Dutchman Grave trail. The Dutchman Grave trail starts out by going through a grassy field then it stats to drop down via switchbacks and you eventually cross Sycamore Creek. The trail climbs out and then you have a couple of short ups and downs before starting the descend. The trail starts to get a little hard to follow. There's grass growing over and on the trail. Some of the cairns are obscured by bushes and grass. Take your time and look for the cairns / trail.
Next you'll come across the intersection for Red Hills Trail (262) and Fuller Seep. Stay on the Dutchman Grave. As you pass campsites, watch out for spur trails. You then have to do a couple more climbs and descents. Eventually you'll reach the HK Mesa and the trail becomes flat and easy to follow. The Sycamore Creek is to your left. The trail ends at the Verde River Trail. Turn left and cross the Sycamore Creek. Shortly later you'll be back by the Verde River / Willows springs intersection. This completes the loop. Return to the trailhead and finish the hike.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.