One of the best destinations in the southwest for birding, boating, fishing, pack trips and hiking is along the Gila River headwaters and 100 miles of New Mexico’s last free flowing river. Recreational opportunities abound in the Gila, with three Important Bird Areas that span the Upper, Middle and Lower Gila Box gallery forests and the river valley that connects them. You can traverse ten thousand foot peaks to a desert oasis. A lush thicket of cottonwood, willows, and other riparian vegetation line the banks of the river and wildflowers flourish in wet years. This area provides some of the best birding in New Mexico ̶ home to approximately 200 species, it has one of the highest bird diversities in the state. The area provides habitat to many uncommon birds including Painted Redstart, Red-faced Warbler, Common Black Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Gila Woodpecker. You’ll be sure to add several birds to your Life List!
Want a Gila Trout to complete your native cutthroat slam? Several headwater streams are now stocked with recreational populations. Looking for a breathtaking whitewater kayak? The Gila River wilderness reach during spring runoff is a rough and tumble ride through spectacular canyons. Want to pack in back country among ancient forests, hear the lone cry of the Mexican Gray Wolf, or pick up the Continental Divide Trail? The mesas and canyons in the Gila headwaters provide it all.
Every year, this world class landscape is celebrated at the annual Gila River Festival in the historic gateway community of Silver City, New Mexico. Held September 22nd through the 25th, this year’s celebration falls on the centennial of the National Park Service, a fitting occasion to examine our uniquely American land ethic of protecting wild places. Our willingness to spend money on outdoor recreation is one way we reveal the value we place on our natural heritage. Here in New Mexico, the active outdoor recreation economy contributes $3.8 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy. Help us pass on these values and places to the next generation. Whatever your favorite activity, take it outdoors and show your support for conserving the wild in the Gila River and Gila headwaters by joining us at the Gila River Festival!