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Get Your Feet Wet at 3rd Annual Gila River Festival,
Sept. 13-16

The 3rd Annual Gila River Festival, Sept. 13-16, will be a weekend celebration and interpretive event focusing on increasing the awareness of the natural and cultural history of the Gila River, the last free-flowing river in New Mexico. The theme for the festival this year, "Flowing Into the Future," emphasizes the role of flooding in maintaining the natural integrity of the river, and the cyclical nature that people living alongside it continue to adapt to. Featuring talks, walks, stewardship projects and puppet theater, this year's event also adds an evening campfire program with community storytellers, a "star party" and an opportunity for families to camp at the river's headwaters.

Note that some events require advance registration. For those that are held outside of Silver City, you're invited to meet at a designated location and carpool.

For a complete festival schedule, see www.gilaconservation.org/schedule.shtml. For more information, contact the Gila Conservation Coalition, 305A N. Cooper, Silver City, NM 88061, 538-8078, info@gilaconservation.org.

Festival highlights include:

 

Thursday, Sept.13

Field Trip — Gila Riparian Preserve, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., The Nature Conservancy properties, Cliff-Gila Valley. Tour the most recent addition to The Nature Conservancy's Gila Riparian Preserve, the Iron Bridge Tract. In the afternoon, visit TNC's Gila River Farm, where the floods of 2005 carved out a new main channel for the river. The focus of this tour will be on understanding how floods and other disturbances shape the river ecosystem. Meet at the Silver City Visitor Center at 9 a.m. to carpool, or arrive on-site at the Iron Bridge Tract by 9:45 a.m. Registration required.

What Greater Treasure? Living Water in the Desert — Keynote address by Thomas Lowe Fleischner, 7-9 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m., WNMU Global Resource Center Auditorium. Join passionate naturalist Tom Fleischner for a discussion of the role of water in our desert environment and a reminder that seasonal pulses are critical to a healthy Gila River. Fleischner is a conservation biologist, author and educator who has worked in the environmental field for more than 25 years. He is a professor of environmental studies at Prescott College in Arizona and the author of Desert Wetlands.

 

Friday, Sept.14

Field Trip — Archaeology of Purgatory Chasm, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Purgatory Chasm, Hwy. 35, near mile marker 24, near Lake Roberts boat launch area. Join Forest Service archaeologists Bob Schiowitz and Chris Adams to learn more about prehistoric agricultural fields. Meet at the Silver City Visitor Center at 9 a.m. to carpool, or arrive on-site at the Purgatory Chasm trailhead located between the Upper End and Mesa Campgrounds at Lake Roberts by 10:15 a.m. Registration required.

From the Mountains to the Desert: Flora and Fauna of the Gila River Corridor in New Mexico — 7:15 - 9 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m. Silco Theater, 311 N. Bullard, downtown Silver City. Four biologists — Roland Shook, William Norris, Randy Jennings and Kelly Kindscher — who have done extensive research on plants and wildlife in the Gila River Valley present their findings in an interactive slide and discussion program that will show how the biological richness of the Gila River benefits its inhabitants. Flute music by Michael Kunz. Light refreshments.

 

Saturday, Sept.15

Field Trip — Birds of the Gila River Valley, 8-11 a.m., Gila Bird Area, Cliff-Gila Valley. Join Roland Shook for a birding field trip. Meet at the Silver City Visitor Center at 8 a.m. to carpool, or meet the carpools at the junction of Hwy. 180 and Bill Evans Lake Road at 8:30 a.m. Registration required.

Field Trip — Feast or Famine: How Floods & Droughts Affect the Flora of the Gila River, 8-11 a.m., TNC's Lichty Center, Cliff-Gila Valley. Kelly Kindscher and Bill Norris lead a field trip along the banks of the Gila River on The Nature Conservancy's Gila River Farm property in Cliff to observe how episodic flooding of the river creates opportunities for native plant survival and growth. Meet at the Silver City Visitor Center at 8 a.m. to carpool, or arrive on-site at the Lichty Center, four miles north of Cliff on Hwy. 293 (Box Canyon Rd.) by 8:45 a.m. Registration required.

Little Creek, Big Puppets! — Puppet Parade & Theater, 9:30 a.m.-noon, The Hub, Bullard and Sixth St. Join Monsoon Puppet Theater in downtown Silver City between 9:30 and 11 a.m. for a family-friendly puppet and mask-making workshop, then participate in the parade as it winds its way down Bullard Street to Spring Street Park, where puppets enliven the tale of "The Little Creek."

Guided Cliff Dwellings Tours — 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The regularly scheduled daily tours will have a special focus for this festival weekend. Discover how water helped to shape the natural and cultural history of the national monument. Tours begin at the first cave; allow approximately 30 minutes to hike to the starting point. $3 entrance fee.

Flood Stories — 7-9 p.m., Gila Visitor Center's Aldo Leopold Amphitheater, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Be part of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument's centennial, "Celebrating a Century of Storytelling," by sharing your own Gila River stories. Plus, about 8 p.m., hear Andy Hubbard, program manager of the National Park Service-Sonoran Desert Network on "Vital Signs Monitoring: What we know about the ecological resources of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument." Singer/songwriter George Page performs at the beginning of the program. Stargazing follows.

 

Sunday, Sept. 16

Field Trip — Birds of the Gila Headwaters, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Includes access to a State Wildlife Area adjacent to the Gila Wilderness and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Meet at the Silver City Visitor Center at 7 a.m. to ride the bus round trip, or arrive on-site at the cliff dwellings' Gila Visitor Center by 8:45 a.m. Bus passengers will get a light breakfast and interpretive guidance by SWNM Audubon board members on what to expect. Registration required. $10 fee includes bus ride and breakfast.

Stewardship Project — River Trail Clearing, 9 a.m.-noon. Woody's Corral, near Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Clear brush along the river and set up rock cairns to mark river crossings. Tools and training provided. Wear sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeves, gloves and sun hat. Bring water.

Hike — Gila Riparian Preserve, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Accompany naturalist Mike Fugagli on a family-friendly hike through the Gila Riparian Preserve to the Gila gauging station, and discover what makes the Gila River so special. Bring a sack lunch, water, sun hat and sturdy shoes. Approximately three miles roundtrip. Registration required. Meet at the Mogollon Box Campground, Cliff-Gila Valley.

Demonstration — Aquatic Monitoring Techniques, ongoing 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Demonstration tent and riverside, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center.

Demonstration — Fly fishing, ongoing 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Demonstration tent and riverside, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center. fly fisherman and author Dutch Salmon.

Demonstration — The Skinny on Water Quality, ongoing 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Demonstration tent and riverside, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center. Dave Menzie of the NMED Surface Water Quality Bureau.

Demonstration — What is a Watershed?, ongoing 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Demonstration tent and riverside, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center. Van Clothier, stream restoration expert and owner of Stream Dynamics.

Music & Food Vendors — 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Doc Campbell's Post, Gila Hotsprings. Performing artists include David Gierke, Black Walnut and Ed Teja & Gypsy Feet.

Guided Cliff Dwellings Tours — 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. $3 entrance fee.

Walk — Keystone Critter: How a Beaver Makes Its Living, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Join mammalogist Steve MacDonald to learn why the beaver is such an important species in the arid Southwest. Meet at the Gila Visitor Center, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Hike — Cliff Dweller Canyon Geology, noon-2 p.m. Follow long-time Gila Cliff Dwellings volunteer Jim Ransom as he leads a geology tour. $3 entrance fee. Meet at the Gila Cliff Dwellings Trailhead.

Stewardship Project — Campground Cleanup, ongoing 1-4 p.m. Trash bags and gloves will be provided for anyone willing to partake in a quick campground clean up with big results. Meet at the Gila Visitor Center, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Walk — Fish Stories: Learn Who's Native & Who's Not, 1-2:30 p.m. Join state Game & Fish fisheries biologist David Propst. Meet at the Gila Visitor Center, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Children's Story Hour — Little Creek, Big Puppets! 2- 2:30 p.m., Gila Visitor Center's Aldo Leopold Amphitheater, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Another chance to see the Monsoon Puppets.

Hike — Archaeology of the Gila River, 2-3:30 p.m. Forest Service archaeologist Bob Schiowitz and UNM archaeologist Chris Turnbow. Meet at the Gila Visitor Center, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

 

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