Exploring the Wilderness
The state of New Mexico is one of the richest places in all of the United States when it comes to beautiful natural habitat and breathtaking scenery. With dozens of places spread around the state to choose from, you can spend a hefty amount of time touring this place. However there are some places that take the whole concept of tourism to the next level, bringing to you a spectacle that you just have to experience. And once you have experienced it, the priceless memories get imprinted in your mind forever, never to be forgotten. One of these places is the Gila Cliff Dwellings in the Gila Wilderness. Covering an area of 533 acres, it is the first ever place in the whole United States to be given the status of National Monument. President Roosevelt himself established the executive proclamation. Situated in the Catron County’s extreme southern portion, it can be accessed by tourists via US 180 from Silver City. So what is it about this place that has given it so much royal treatment and causes throngs of tourists visiting this place all the time? Read on to find out more.
In 1878, an immigrant residing in Silver City named Henry B. Ailman found himself and some friends of his being pursued by the law. In order to avoid going to jail they decided to go to River Gila and it was then that they came upon the dwellings. After that, several people came here to research the place and in 1890s when the place was more easily accessible, Hill brothers came up with the plan to open a resort nearby at the Gila Hot Springs which are located close to the dwellings. They took visitors to field trips of the dwellings as guides. Over the years, a lot of discoveries have been made including a burial ground in 1912. A mummified body of a baby that was named “Zeke” was also taken to the Smithsonian Museum. Over the years the popularity of the place grew exponentially and the amount of tourism to this place increased manifolds. The government of USA continuously improved the status of protection of the area under several executive orders and currently, the Gila National Forest has been assigned the duty of administering the monument.
Located at a height of 5500-6000 feet, the Gila Dwellings offer the visitor some of the most spectacular landscape views in the whole world. With a rugged landscape and canyons with steep cliffs, the place has little plantation which is mostly made up of pines, firs and oaks. Home to the people belonging to the Mogollon culture which dates back to the year 1275, these dwellings are considered to be the only place where it is possible to find remains of their culture and lifestyle. The structures are built in a very well-thought manner and they provide perfect shelter from the outside. The wood used here to conceal the homes has also been checked for its age and has proven to be of the same era as the other remains. Archeologists were able to find dwellings in five different caves that had 46 rooms in total between them. The overall resident count is believed to be around 13-15 families. The food was easily available in the surrounding areas for them to survive.
Reaching the dwellings requires a hike up a trail that is a mile long and is well traveled. On your way there you will find several foot bridges that have been built over a stream. It takes about an hour to reach the dwellings and during that time you gain an altitude of 180 feet.
What you can find there?
There is a museum and a visitor center that you will find at the monument. The visitor center is being operated jointly by the National Park Service and the U.S Forest Service. They are responsible for maintaining a small museum where you will find several artifacts and remains that belong to Mogollon and Apache People that were recovered both at the site and from the surrounding areas.
The climate is mild and you can visit the dwellings themselves or go to the hot springs. There is also the option to visit other nearby sites and trails or you can spend the day in a relaxing manner, fishing at Gila River.
The Gila Dwellings are a great place to not only learn about the history of the place but at the same time have a great time outing and exploring the New Mexican wilderness. It is highly recommended that you visit this place.