|Name: Sheep Bridge (FR269)||Author's Rating:|
|Author: Matt Marine||Avg. User Rating: (based on four user votes)|
|Type: 4WD||Difficulty: (semi-maintained dirt roads)|
|Time: 4 - 6 hrs (not including the time it takes to get to the tailhead)||Region: Central Arizona|
|Length: 12 miles (one way - doesn't include distance to get to trailhead)||Elevation gain/loss/change: +1114 / - 1992 / -878 (one way)|
|Type: Out and back||Avg Elevation: 2800 ft|
|Best time to go: fall, spring, winter||Fees: NA|
|Fitness rating: Low||Educational Merit: Medium|
|Danger/fear rating: Medium||Scenic Beauty: High|
|Hours of Operation: NA||Last updated: January, 2012|
|Short Description: A long 2WD road to an awesome suspension foot bridge across the Verde River|
|Offroad Passport Forum: Click here to join the discussion on Offroad Passport (lot's of good additional information on Sheep Bridge, the hot springs and other interesting things in the area)|
|Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Sheep Thrills; Verde Cache 2; No More Tangles;|
|References / Contact Information: Bridgemeister; Forest Service; Sheep Bridge Verde River Crossing; My Jeep Rocks; History of Sheep Bridge|
|Points of interest: Sheep Bridge; Verde River, Tangle Creek|
|Special Considerations: Although this trail is easy (there were a few 2WD Escapes out there when we went), it is a long and bumpy ride. It takes much longer than you think it should. Also, make sure you include the time it takes to get to the starting point (which can be significant). Plan accordingly.|
|How to get there: The following directions access the trail via Bloody Basin Road (recommended). Bloody Basin Road is actually a little easier than the Sheep Bridge Trail, at least it was when we were out there. You can also access the trail from the south. We actually came in from New River (which is 4WD) or through Carefree (which I have yet to do). Click here for Google Maps.|
This is a high-clearance 2WD adventure to a historic pedestrian bridge across the Verde River. Although 4WD is not required, the road is slow and bumpy. It takes longer than you may think.
When we did this adventure in January 2012, I massively miscalculated the time it would take to do this, New River and Bloody Basin Road. We left Tucson at 4 am and didn't get back home until about 10 pm. It was a LONG day four-wheeling.
We went in through New River, then hit the FR24 road leading north. From the intersection of Bloody Basin and Tangle Creek, we took a right on FR269 and went down to Sheep Bridge.
I loved the bridge and the area around the Verde River, but if I do it again, I will probably make two days out of it and do a little camping. There are some nice areas around the Verde River to camp (you will probably have some company on weekends). There was also a really nice spot along Tangle Creek (Waypoint 0003) to camp, though it's right next to the main road.
October 2012 Update: Here's a great .pdf file that describes the history of Sheep Bridge, its construction, history of sheep herding in Arizona and a ton of other stuff. What a great document! Click here for the link to the .pdf file.
The original Sheep Bridge was built in 1943 as was known as the Red Point Sheep Bridge. The "pedestrian" bridge (people and sheep) was built by the Flagstaff Sheep Company to allow safe crossing of the Verde River. The area had been used by the company for sheep ranching since 1926.
During WWII, materials (especially metal) was hard to come by and the original bridge was constructed mainly of salvaged materials. The end towers and walkway were first constructed of wood, then shortly after completion the towers were reinforced with concrete buttresses. Twin cables more than 1 inch in diameter obtained from the old Blue Bell mine were used to suspend the bridge high over the Verde River.
The Sheep Bridge outlasted many of its peers and was finally listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 as the last of its kind in the southwest. Then in 1988, the old bridge was dismanteled by the Forest Service when it was proclaimed unsafe. In 1989, a new bridge of similar design was erected in its place. This is the bridge that you can visit today. Only the concrete buttresses remain of the old bridge.
The foundations just before you get to the bridge were from old ranch headquarters which included a barn, three-room bunkhouse, caretaker's cabin, chicken coop and shearing shed.
Sheep Bridge a long pedestrian bridge with 691 feet between anchorages. Distance between towers is 568 feet. The walkway is 476 feet long and 3 feet wide. My guess it is about 75-100 feet above the Verde River.
Staring at Waypoint 0001 (however you decide to get there), drive east along FR269. There are a few roads off in either direction. The first is a left at FR16 leading to Night Trap Tank. Keep on the main road. Signs will show the way to Sheep Bridge. This first part of the trip is the easiest, and smoothest. Enjoy it while you can :-)
At approximately Waypoint 0002 (1.2 miles), you will see a trail off to the right leading to the Tangle Creek Administrative Site (a couple buildings that you may not be able to see from here Tangle Creek Cabin). The road was gated off when we visited. I am not sure what's there. If you continue a little further up the road, you can see them along the creek below on the right.
Keep driving along the main road for another mile or so and you will come to what I thought was the most beautiful part of the trail, except for Sheep Bridge of course. The trail crosses Tangle Creek at Waypoint 0003. There's a nice camping spot on your left with big trees and flowing water (at least when we were there).
From here on out, the road gets rougher and does not let up for the rest of the trip. Again, some roads lead off in both directions (FR18 and FR987), just stay on the main trail as you head southeast toward Sheep Bridge.
Keep driving past Waypoints 0004, 0005, 0006 and 0007. There may be a few places to explore on the way, but the day was quickly drawing to a close when we visited and we were trying to get to Sheep Bridge as fast as we could.
At about Waypoint 0008, you will see a pulloff on your right that overlooks the valley below. This is an awesome spot to get out and look at the Verde River and Sheep Bridge.
Almost there, continue down the road as it heads steeply down into the valley. Just before you reach Sheep Bridge, you will see some old foundations on both sides the road from the sheep ranchers (see history).
When you reach Waypoint 0009, you'll be at Sheep Bridge! There's a small parking area next to the bridge, or you can find parking in the flatter area down by the river and walk back up.
If you're interested, you can partially drive, partially walk (we walked the entire distance) to the gauge station at Waypoint Gage. This is a fairly nice walk if you have the time.
Rumor has it that you can also find fords across the river when the water level is low. I've seen pictures on the Net of people doing this. I am not sure where this ford is or if there is a connecting road on the other side of the river. I have seen mountain biking, hiking and motorcycle posts about a narrow trail that leads to the road beyond. So far, I have not found anything reliable that shows how you can do this in a vehicle.
Take some time, walk across the bridge. Enjoy the water, trees and scenery. When you're ready, pack up and head back the way you came. What a wonderful piece of history and some beautiful scenery to boot.
Have fun and be safe!
Hot Tub Info and River Crossings
November 12, 2013: The hot tub mentioned is actually rather civilized...a rectangular concrete tank about six feet long by four feet wide; three feet deep. Hot water pours in via a 3-inch PVC pipe and exits directly into the Verde River. Only downside is that there's quite a bit of algae. River crossing (4WD) of the Verde is about 100 yards downstream of the bridge. There's also a nice tent camping spot there on the west side of the river. On one occasion, after crossing the river in my Chevy 4x4, I drove back in to yank out two other pilgrims who thought it would be cool to drive in to the river, park and wash their rigs. They settled into sand and got stuck.
After crossing the river and driving south past Chalk Hill you can re-cross the river (4WD) near a ranch. On one occasion, when gates were unlocked and water wasn't flowing over it, I drove across the spillway ramp at Horseshoe Dam. Another time I crossed about 200 yards downstream from the dam, following a primitive but effective built-up rock causeway that the rancher had built. I was still axle-deep in water, but it wasn't too tough. If you take that route you'll wind up headed south through Cave Creek and Scottsdale.
February 26, 2013: There is a soaking tub and hot spring just to the North of the bridge on the West shore of the Verde River. It's a nice shaded place to relax under an archway of willows after a long drive.