Originally Published: March 12, 2008 8:40 a.m.
It flows once or twice a year depending on the amount of rain or snow that falls in the Bradshaw Mountains. Some years it does not flow at all.
But when it does flow, the so-called Castle Creek waterfall northwest of Black Canyon City is a site not often seen in the outskirts of the Sonoran Desert.
The 100-foot tall spillway is found at the end of a 6-mile bone-jarring drive out Castle Creek Road. From the trailhead at the end of the 4-wheel drive vehicle-required road, a half-mile hike of bushwhacking, boulder hopping, creek jumping and rock scaling stands in the way of an up-close view of the falls.
A large pool spreads out at the base of the falls. Smaller pools stair-step up the creek to the base.
The dilemma for would-be visitors is that when there is enough water for a waterfall, Black Canyon Creek and parts of Castle Creek may be too deep or treacherous for vehicles to cross.
"We went out about three weeks ago and it was gushing like Niagara Falls," Cave Creek resident Troy Gillenwater said. "But there was no way we could get across Black Canyon Creek so we parked and hiked from there."
It is five miles of up-and-down hiking from Black Canyon Creek to the falls' trailhead.
"The force of the water was so strong in the creek that we had to go upstream a ways to compensate for getting pushed downstream," he said. "The water came up to our waists and we never dried out the rest of the day."
At the falls' trailhead, the remains of a line-camp and evidence of ranching are visible.
"That was my uncle Fred's line-camp," Prescott resident Cal Cordes said. Cordes' family settled Antelope Station, located near Mayer and Spring Valley, in the 1870s. Antelope Station is now called Cordes Station and opens on weekends.
"He had that cabin when he owned the Double F Ranch. We'd go out there and hunt and have a good time."
Ray Gardner attended Mayer's one-room schoolhouse and later returned as a schoolteacher.
"We used to go out there and roam around and do stuff," Gardner said. "It is beautiful country." Gardner is a local-legend fiddle player and now lives at the Arizona Pioneers Home in Prescott.
"That is gorgeous country out there," avid outdoorsman and Dist. 2 Supervisor Tom Thurman said. "When that waterfall is flowing, it is just spectacular. The problem is that is doesn't last very long and you have to time it just right to see it."
Black Canyon City residents familiar with the habits of the Castle Creek waterfall, say the falls likely are now dry.
To see a photo-essay of the Castle Creek waterfall, visit www.bigbugnews.com and click on Photo Galleries.