“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Carefree in Maricopa County, Arizona — The American Mountains (Southwest)

The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge

The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 1 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wyndfire, March 11, 2012
1. The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 1
Main Marker
Marker 1 - (Main Marker):
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. As early as the turn of the century, other sheep ranchers also used the Bloody Basin, which supposedly took its name from numerous fights between Indians and settlers that occurred there. After the bridge was constructed, the 11,000 sheep that wintered on three nearby Forest Service grazing allotments could safely cross from one side of the Verde to the other.

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 two 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 complete, the wooden towers were reinforced with concrete buttresses. Each main suspension cable consisted
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of a pair of 1 3/8-inch-diameter lock-coil, spiral strands, which were obtained from an abandoned tramway that carried copper ore from the Blue Bell Mine west of Cordes to a railroad siding south of Mayer, after the turn of the century. 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.

Marker 2 - (Middle Marker):
For nearly 40 years, Verde River Sheep Bridge was a focal point of sheep ranching in Bloody Basin. The first flocks of sheep crossed the bridge in the fall of 1943; the last, during the spring of 1979. In the intervening years, sheepmen used the bridge to move sheep from one pasture to another along the river as well as to and from the stock driveways west of the river, which led to summer pastures in the mountains of northern Arizona. Basque herders also used the bridge during lambing and shearing seasons to cross between
The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 2 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wyndfire, March 11, 2012
2. The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 2
Lower plaque:
The following were involved in the building or use of the old sheep bridge. Other participants were the Basque and Mexican-American sheepherders and camptenders who provided the manpower to build the bridge

Frank Auza and Family • M. O. Best • José Echenique • Tony Gonzalo and Family • John W. Hennessy • Tony A. Koch • José Antonio Manterola and Family • Ralph O. Raymond, M.D. • Levi Reed • Emil M. Rovey • George W. Smith and Family • W. B. Spurlock
pastures on the east side of the Verde and the ranch headquarters on the west side. The ranch buildings included a three-room bunkhouse, barn, caretaker's cabin, wood shed, chicken coop and shearing shed. The foundations of these structures may still be seen northwest of the approach to the bridge.

Marker 3 - (Marker on the East Side of Bridge)
The Verde River was a formidable obstacle for the sheep outfits that used the pastures along the river. Sheepherders had to swim their flocks across the river several times a year, especially in the spring going north to summer pastures and in the fall returning to the winter ranges, and could expect to lose at least a few animals to the swift currents at every crossing. In their search for a reliable way to get the sheep safely and quickly across the river, ranchers built temporary bridges - a pontoon-type bridge at Red Creek (six miles north of here) and a small suspension bridge at Tangle Creek. The temporary suspension bridge was used for about three years and was suitable when the river level was low; however, it had to be dismantled after each use to prevent it from washing away if the river rose. That bridge spawned the idea for a permanent suspension bridge high above the river level.

In 1978, a visitor to the Verde River Sheep Bridge related, "Basque herders walked the bridge, checking for loose
The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 3 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wyndfire, March 11, 2012
3. The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge - Marker 3
boards. Then the tinkling of the lead goat's bell grew louder as it moved in our direction. In a few moments, the river of white animals was funneled across the bridge and spread like liquid fingers over the rugged terrain. One of the herders stood at the base of the bridge and took a head count as the animals arrived on the west bank."
Erected by National Forest Service - Tonto National Forest Division.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AnimalsBridges & ViaductsIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1943.
Location. 34° 4.674′ N, 111° 42.489′ W. Marker is near Carefree, Arizona, in Maricopa County. Marker can be reached from Bloody Basin Off-Road Trail, on the left when traveling east. Sheep Bridge is located approximately 48 miles northeast of Carefree on the Bloody Basin Off-Road Trail. You need a 4x4 vehicle with good clearance to reach it. Do not attempt this trail in inclement weather. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Carefree AZ 85377, United States of America. Touch for directions.
More about this marker. Markers are located on either end of the bridge.
Also see . . .
1. Verde River Sheep Bridge. Photos taken in 2007 of the the new bridge, remnants of the old bridge, markers and the surrounding
The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wyndfire, March 11, 2012
4. The Old Verde River Sheep Bridge
New Bridge on the left, Remains of Original Bridge on the right
area. (Submitted on April 4, 2012.) 

2. Historic Photos of the Old Bridge. (Submitted on April 4, 2012.)
New Bridge, Spanning the Verde River image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wyndfire, March 11, 2012
5. New Bridge, Spanning the Verde River
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on March 29, 2012, by Jennifer W. of Las Cruces, New Mexico. This page has been viewed 2,283 times since then and 100 times this year. It was the Marker of the Week April 8, 2012. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on March 29, 2012, by Jennifer W. of Las Cruces, New Mexico. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photos of the ranch headquarters foundations. • Can you help?

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May. 28, 2024