Verde River Sheep Bridge

The Verde River Sheep Bridge, also known as the Red Point Sheep Bridge, is a suspension bridge which crosses the Verde River in Arizona. Constructed primarily to allow sheep to be driven between grazing ranges on either side of the river. Building started in 1943 and was completed in 1944. Sheep drives stopped in 1978. The bridge was closed in 1987 and largely demolished in 1988. A replica bridge was constructed by the U.S. Forest Service in 1989 to allow hikers access to the Mazatzal Wilderness in Tonto National Forest. The original west suspension tower still remains alongside the replica bridge.

Verde River Sheep Bridge
Verde River Sheep Bridge.jpg
Historic bridge
Verde River Sheep Bridge is located in Arizona
Verde River Sheep Bridge
Verde River Sheep Bridge is located in the United States
Verde River Sheep Bridge
Nearest cityCarefree, Arizona
Coordinates34°4′39″N 111°42′26″W / 34.07750°N 111.70722°W / 34.07750; -111.70722Coordinates: 34°4′39″N 111°42′26″W / 34.07750°N 111.70722°W / 34.07750; -111.70722
Area5 acres (2.0 ha)
Built1940 (1940)
Architectural styleSuspension
NRHP reference No.78000569[1]
Added to NRHPNovember 21, 1978


Replacement bridge

Dr. R. O. Raymond of the Flagstaff Sheep Company owned a winter sheep allotment on the east side of the Verde River and a summer allotment on the west side. Access between the sides was difficult, and high water conditions could make it hazardous to ford the river. Raymond decided to fund the construction of a narrow suspension bridge across the Verde to make the crossing easier. A road was built to the bridge site in 1943 and construction was started on a bridge to a design by C. O. Gilliam. It was built using surplus materials from the Bluebell Mine, as well as some cables from the Golden Turkey Mine. The builders were Frank Auza, the Flagstaff Sheep Company's foreman, and George W. Smith, a local builder, with a crew of more than thirty Basque, French Basque, Mexican and Hispanic sheepherders. Auza and Smith visited the Blue Point Sheep Bridge on the Salt River to learn about its construction, deciding to call the Verde River bridge the Red Point Bridge. The total cost of the bridge as originally built was $7,277. Auza maintained the bridge until 1978, when sheep herding was discontinued in the area.[2][3]


The original bridge measured 691 feet (211 m) overall from anchorage to anchorage and was 45 inches (110 cm) wide, with a clear cable span of 568 feet (173 m). The walkway, whose abutments were located between the towers, had a span of 476 feet (145 m) with a clearance of about 45 feet (14 m) over the river. The suspension span was supported by 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) wire rope with 0.375-inch (9.5 mm) wire rope suspenders 8 feet (2.4 m) apart. The deck and railings are wood. The 50-foot (15 m) tall west tower is concrete.[3] Although Gilliam designed the tower legs as large timbers, they were made of built-up 2x10s which were more readily available. However, this assembly soon deteriorated, so Auza erected formwork around them and poured concrete towers. Sway bracing was provided by wire cable stays.[2]

Designation and replacementEdit

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 1978.[1] The original bridge was closed in 1987[2] and was replaced by a replica in 1989. It provides access to the Mazatzal Wilderness in Tonto National Forest. The bridge is maintained as part of the forest's trail system.[4] The original bridge's concrete abutment remains.

The Verde River Sheep Bridge Is located on a remote section of the Verde River.
The present Verde River Sheep Bridge - looking across the bridge to the East.
The Verde River Sheep Bridge - looking across the present bridge to the west. The original suspension tower can be seen alongside the present bridge.
The Verde River Sheep Bridge crosses at approximately 45 feet above the river.
The Sheep Bridge Hot Springs is hidden in the overgrowth of reeds on the west side of the river just up stream from the bridge.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Gerald A. Doyle & Associates (July 1987). "Verde River Sheep Bridge (Red Point Sheep Bridge)" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Weinel, W. G. (July 22, 1975). "Verde River Sheep Bridge". National Park Service. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Sheeps Bridge". Tonto National Forest. U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved 15 June 2015.

External linksEdit

  Media related to River Sheep Bridge, Cave Creek at Wikimedia Commons