BC Trail now a national recreation trail

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recently designated the Black Canyon Trail as a National Recreation Trail joining the nationwide network of trails encompassing more than 12,000 miles.

The Department of Interior added 24 new trails to the National Trail system June 7 on the 40th anniversary of the trails system. The Black Canyon Trail is the only Arizona trail included in the Department of Interior's announcement.

Additionally, in May 2008 the Black Canyon Trail Coalition received its second national Bureau of Land Management award in three years. Several members of the BCTC including Bob Cothern, Sonia Overholser, Babs Sanders and Linda Slay traveled to Washington D.C. for the presentation of the 'Making a Difference Award.'

In 2006, the BCTC received the 'Take Pride in America' award and the Black Canyon Fire Department honored the coalition at its 2007 awards banquet for its "energy and selfless volunteerism, which closely parallel those of the volunteer firefighters of the department."

Rich Hanson, BLM's coordinator on the Black Canyon Trail said, "The BLM is excited that the Black Canyon Trail has joined America's National Trail system. The trail, now recognized locally, regionally and nationally, is an exemplary "Trail for All Americans."

The National Recreation Trail designation will support the use and care of the existing Black Canyon Trail and help develop new trails linking the Black Canyon Trail with other pathways and communities."

Additionally, the Arizona Game & Fish Department recently purchased the Deadman Wash easement for the new Black Canyon Trailhead on Carefree Highway and connecting trail to the original alignment of the Black Canyon Trail.

The Black Canyon Trail has its origins as a prehistoric Native American pathway linking the local settlements and today's trail follows a route that has been used since the 1600s.

In 1919, the Department of Interior officially established the trail as a livestock driveway, mainly to herd sheep between the valley and the summer range in the Bradshaw Mountains.

The trail corridor north of Highway 69 still is used to herd sheep annually. Some parts of the trail parallel the old stagecoach road. Stage stops were located at New River, Gillett, Black Canyon City, Bumble Bee and Cordes.

In 1969, the Black Canyon Stock Driveway was dedicated as the Black Canyon Trails Area beginning north of Highway 74 traveling northward to Prescott National Forest then north of Highway 69. By 1992, more than 13 miles of the trail was completed all in Maricopa County. Budget and manpower constraints resulted in minimal work on extending the trail northward until 2004.

The BLM hired the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) as consultants to help design the trail and set up a volunteer program. Trail design expert Joey Klein from IMBA laid out the initial trail and trained the first volunteers.

And then a small group of those volunteers formed the Black Canyon Trail Coalition to work on completing the trail and the project became a reality in December 2007 when the Skyline-Horseshoe Bend trail segment was completed. This connection to the Black Canyon Trail now provides a contiguous non-motorized trail from Black Canyon City to the Carefree Highway Trailhead - a distance of 27.9 miles.

Troy Dymock, U.S. Forest Service trail expert from Oregon, worked with the BCTC and the BLM for more than three years on completing this first half of the trail.

The final trail section was completed in December in spite of cold, wet weather and the swollen Agua Fria River stranding workers from the Southwest Conservation Corp. on the south side of the river.

The grand opening celebration in February 2008 was a milestone for all entities involved in the completion of this first half of the trail.

"Since March 2004, volunteers have constructed eight miles of non-motorized, single-track trail using only hand tools," said Bob Cothern, BCTC secretary.

"The volunteers labored almost 3,000 hours to extend the trail to Black Canyon City. A paid crew during the same time constructed another eight miles for a total of 16 miles of new trail."

The BCTC is a non-profit volunteer alliance of equestrian, mountain bicycling, hiking and off-highway vehicle (OHV) organizations. The organization works in cooperation with government agencies such as BLM, National Park Service, National Forest Service as well as equestrian groups such as the Black Canyon City Riders and Arizona State Horseman's Association who not only volunteer man-hours but horse hours too.

The horses are used to carry hundreds of pounds of water, tools and supplies to trail workers.

Since this is a multi-use trail countless volunteers from the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Mountain Bike Association of America and other groups and individuals come to Black Canyon City to work during volunteer workdays.

There is no membership in the BCTC," Cothern said. "We have nine volunteer board members and many, many volunteer trail workers."

Trail work will now continue north toward Soap Creek Road, which will complete another large loop option in October.

Cothern said, "The BCTC hopes to obtain a small trail dozer or excavator during the next work season, which will greatly increase the amount of trail that can be constructed each season."

The total completed length of the Black Canyon Trail will be about 62 miles, however, discussions are under way with the Prescott National Forest to extend the trail all the way to Camp Verde.

For more information on the Black Canyon Trail Coalition and the Black Canyon Trail, visit www.bctaz.com