Schedule: Thursday, Sept 22

Home  /  15th Annual Gila River Festival September 19 – 22, 2019  /  Schedule: Thursday, Sept 22

Festival Headquarters: Besse Forward Global Resource Center, Western New Mexico University, 12th & Kentucky Streets, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm 

AND Festival Information: Murray Ryan Visitor Center, 201 N. Hudson, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.



Photo: Mark Watson


Field trip with Jarrod Swackhamer.

7:00 a.m.–Noon.

Participant limit: 15. Fee: $16. Registration required

Join expert birder Jarrod Swackhamer as he helps you to discover what the day has in store! September is a great time to run into migrants heading south, and there are few better places in the county for such a rendezvous than Mangas Springs. Mangas Springs is an enticing stopover, boasting the lushest and most vegetated point along Mangas Creek, which connects the Big Burro Mountains to the Gila River. Migrating warbler possibilities include Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, MacGillivray’s, and Nashville, but are by no means limited to this line-up. Other migrants like Cassin’s Vireo, Western Tanager, and Lazuli Bunting are also on the move. Mangas Springs is a marshy riparian area that hosts a wide array of breeding, migrating, and wintering birds alike. This field trip consists of mostly easy, shaded walking. Please bring a hat, water, sunscreen, good walking shoes, and binoculars.

Jarrod Swackhamer is an accomplished birder and serves as the Education Co-chair of the Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society.



Field trip with Asher Gelbart, Rita Herbst and Kristin Lundgren.

8:00 a.m.–noon. Participant limit: 25. Fee: $16.

Registration required.

Join the Mesquitos (the Mesquite group of Grant County) as they explore mesquite territory in search of mesquite trees with the best-tasting pods. The Mesquitos are native food enthusiasts engaged in exploring the economic viability and sustainability of a local mesquite harvest. We are referring to food-based mesquite products like flour, and value-added products like baked goods, mixes, and syrups, and even the chaff that can be used in beer brewing. Native Americans traditionally used all parts of this important tree: fresh and dried pods for food, water resistant wood for bowls and cradles, root fibers for cordage, leaves for teas and medicine, and pitch for paint and mending pottery. The first step in this adventure is finding the best trees, and then creating a collaborative map of the mesquite forest in our county. As the field trip date approaches, the Mesquitos will scout out the best mesquite patch with the ripest pods. Please bring hat, water, snacks, and sturdy walking shoes. This is a moderately difficult excursion, where heat and snakes may be encountered. Be prepared for an adventure!

Asher Gelbart, resident of Mimbres, has been harvesting mesquite pods for the last eight years. He has participated in annual mesquite milling festivals in Tucson and Cascabel, and is excited to introduce newcomers to the fun and rewarding experience of foraging for this abundant, delicious, and vibrant wild food resource.

Rita Herbst, a longtime resident of Silver City, is the manager of the Nuevos Comienzos Community Kitchen at The Volunteer Center, where she encourages and supports small food-based community businesses.

Kristin Lundgren is the garden coordinator at The Commons. When not working in the garden with non-native fruit and veggies species, Kristin works on creating a new food economy with local, native foods.



Presentation by Dr. Cynthia Ann Bettison, Western New Mexico University.

9:00–10:00 a.m. FREE. Global Resource Center, WNMU.

Southwest New Mexico’s Gila River area is incredibly rich with prehistoric and historic sites that tell the many stories of the different peoples and cultures of the past. Using knowledge obtained from over 100 years of archaeological investigations, this fast-paced presentation will explore 2,000 years of the region’s prehistory, from the Archaic period to the Salado phase, and will feature what archaeologists have learned, and continue to learn, about the peoples who inhabited the area.

This lecture will use archaeological evidence to answer such questions as how different groups used the land and lived, how they interacted, whether some groups “moved” into the area or existing groups adapted to environmental changes and group movements. Did peoples and/or groups actually “abandon” the Gila River area, and is the Western concept of “abandonment” truly applicable to prehistory?

Intertwined throughout the presentation will be information on how instrumental the National Historic Preservation Act—now celebrating its 50th anniversary— was, and continues to be, in preserving the rich and multi-storied heritage of Southwest New Mexico’s Gila River area, and how the Antiquities Act of 1906 established the only National Monument containing a prehistoric Mogollon site open to the public.

Dr. Cynthia Ann Bettison, a Registered Professional Archaeologist, has conducted and participated in archaeological research in the American Southwest, Southern California, Peru, and Nevada for 36 years. She has published articles in a number of professional journals and presented hundreds of professional papers, lectures, and tours to a wide range of national and international audiences. Her research interests include the development of prehistoric ethnic group identity formation and interaction in west central and southwest New Mexico and east-central Arizona, prehistoric Mimbres and Mogollon archaeology, and prehistoric pottery of the Southwest. Dr. Bettison has been the director of the Western New Mexico University Museum since 1991.



Presentation by Teresa Martinez, Director, Continental Divide Trail Coalition.

10:15–11:15 a.m. FREE. Global Resource Center, WNMU.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) is much more than just a line on a map: it is a living museum of the American West, a place to reconnectwith nature, and a unifying force bringing together people from all walksof life. Silver City enjoys the distinction of being the fi rst designated Gateway Community to the Continental Divide Trail. In these times of increasing threats to public lands, it behooves us to acknowledge the far-reaching vision of the US Congress when they designated the Continental Divide as a National Scenic Trail in 1978.

In her presentation, Teresa Martinez will highlight the trail’s history, significance, beauty, and natural and cultural history. She will share some harrowing and humorous tales of CDT hikers, as well as talk about the importance of continuing to protect public lands for the benefit of all citizens.

On Friday, September 23, join other volunteers to work on a section of the Continental Divide Trail near Silver City. See Friday’s schedule for more info.

Teresa Martinez has more than 25 years of experience with management of iconic American trails, first with the Appalachian Trail, and now with the Continental Divide Trail. Martinez is the Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, based in Colorado.



Field trip to River Ranch with Ron Troy, New Mexico Land Conservancy and Mark Watson, NM Department of Game & Fish.

Noon–5:00 p.m.

Participant limit: 20. Fee: $16. Registration required.

NM Game and Fish Department’s Mark Watson and NM Land Conservancy’s Ron Troy have teamed up to lead a fall equinox tour of the River Ranch located on the lower Mimbres River 25 miles southeast of Silver City. The River Ranch, formerly owned by the late Gene and Elisabeth Simon, includes 1,010 deeded acres and approximately 2 miles of the lower Mimbres River. Realizing the ranch’s importance for fish, wildlife and agriculture, the Simons worked with NMLC to place a conservation easement across the ranch in April of 2011.

Participants may see some of the 23 Species of Greatest Conservation Need that have been documented on the Ranch. Th e tour will include viewing along 380 acres of Mimbres River riparian habitat. Among the Fremont cottonwoods and velvet ash located on the ranch is the Tigner Grove, home to the state’s largest velvet ash tree with a height of approximately 95 feet. Please bring plenty of water, binoculars, and footwear for river crossings and for navigating through large stands of big sacaton grass.

Ron Troy is a wildlife biologist and the Southern New Mexico Project Manager for the New Mexico Land Conservancy. Mark Watson is a Terrestrial Habitat Specialist with the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish.



Trip with Nathan Newcomer, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. 1:00–5:00 p.m.

Participant limit: 12. Fee: $16. Registration required.

The Gila Middle Box is located south of the towns of Gila and Cliff , New Mexico. The majority of the area is currently managed as a U.S. Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Area, and includes thirteen miles of the Gila River, in addition to several tributaries. The National Park Service has concluded that this section of the Gila River possesses several Outstandingly Remarkable Values that merit its eligibility as a part of the National Wild & Scenic River System.

The scenery found all along the Gila River in the Middle Box is remarkably attractive. The northern section of the area displays a wide riparian floodplain straddled by towering mountains with deeply incised canyons. The further one goes down the river, the more dramatic the canyon walls become. The overall scenery and visual attractions along the river are highly diverse and appealing.

Fremont cottonwood, narrow leaf cottonwood, Arizona sycamore, and willows characterize the area’s beauty, and in many ways, the riverine solitude offers an unforgettable, and tranquil journey into the subtle essence of Gila River country.

Participants will be taught how to conduct a Wild & Scenic survey while hiking downstream. This field trip is moderate to strenuous. Expect numerous river crossings, uneven ground, minimal elevation gain, shaded canopies, full sun at times, and the lack of a trail system further down river. Expect to get wet!

Please bring hat, shoes that can get wet, water, snacks, and sunscreen.

Nathan Newcomer is a fifth-generation New Mexican with fourteen years of experience working on wilderness campaigns in the state of New Mexico. He was previously a grassroots organizer, media director, and associate director at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, having first joined the organization in 2002. He is currently the organization’s Grassroots Organizer for the Gila.



Presentation by Dr. Esteban Muldavin, Director and Senior Ecologist with Natural Heritage New Mexico.

1:30–2:30 p.m. Global Resource Center, WNMU. FREE.

The Gila River basin in New Mexico harbors diverse plants and wildlife that are highly valued by the citizens of the state. Natural Heritage New Mexico (NHNM) serves New Mexicans in their efforts to effectively manage and conserve these valuable biological resources. Through the New Mexico Conservation Information System (NM-CIS), they provide the most current data and analysis on 700+ sensitive species throughout the state, along with information on the habitats they occupy. Natural Heritage New Mexico’s goal is to provide the best available conservation science to practitioners to unfold solutions to the problems of conserving our state’s rich biota against a backdrop of limited water, land use impacts, energy development, and climate change.

In the Gila basin, NHNM tracks 99 animal species along with 43 plants of conservation interest. They are also engaged in developing rapid assessment techniques for understanding the ecological condition of the riparian ecosystems along the river (NMRAM). To date, they have conducted 20 NMRAM assessments that reflect a wide variety of riparian conditions across the basin. To further support these efforts, they have embarked on a comprehensive mapping of wildlife habitat along the river, in collaboration with the Forest Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The combination of efficient assessment techniques and an accurate resource mapping will provide a firm foundation for effective conservation planning and management into the future.

Dr. Esteban Muldavin is the Director and Senior Ecologist with Natural Heritage New Mexico. He has a B.S. and M.S. in Natural Resources Management from Humboldt State University and a Ph.D. in Biology from New Mexico State University.



Presentation by Liz Archuleta, HECHO.

2:45–3:45 p.m., Global Resource Center, WNMU. FREE.

From southwestern deserts to northern forestland, Hispanics throughout America have a strong connection to our nation’s diverse landscapes. Whether it is fishing in the Gila River, hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, hunting in the San Luis Valley, or camping in the Coconino National Forest, Hispanics have been enjoying the great outdoors for generations. Spending time in the outdoors is a part of our culture, tradition and history—connecting us to our ancestors, and guiding how we see our future. Learn about how outdoor recreation on public land is important to Hispanic/Latino communities and is fundamental to the future of our public lands and natural resource policy.

Elizabeth “Liz” Archuleta is the Arizona Spokesperson for Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO), a non-profit organization that works to protect healthy watersheds, clean air, and robust wildlife habitats so that we can continue to enjoy and practice centuries-old cultural traditions that depend on these open spaces. She is currently serving her fi ft h term on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors representing District Two. A native of Flagstaff and fourth-generation resident, Liz is the first Latina elected to office in the history of Coconino County.



Panel Discussion with panelists Alex Mares, Rick Quezada, Michael Darrow, and moderator Tom Vaughan.

4:00–5:15 p.m. Global Resource Center, WNMU. FREE.

In this panel discussion, tribal members will discuss their people’s unique and important cultural, historical, and spiritual relationship with water. How is this connection currently being endangered and undermined? And how does this relate to the current and future threats to the Gila River, and the many beings that are tied to it today and tomorrow? Native Americans have much to share with the wider community about their bond with and respect for water. In this panel discussion, they will share their prehistoric, historic, and current perspectives and experiences with water.

Alex Mares, of Diné and Mexican descent, has worked as a Park Ranger and Interpreter in both Texas and New Mexico for over 28 years. He worked as Lead Ranger at the world renowned cultural and sacred site known as Hueco Tanks State Historic Site for 15 years.

Anthropologist Rick Quezada has served his pueblo, Ysleta del Sur, as a traditional spiritual leader for over 10 years. He teaches classes in his native language, Tiwa, to tribal members, and serves in the pueblo’s language revitalization program. Michael Darrow, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe’s Tribal Historian and Secretary-Treasurer, works with the tribal cultural and language preservation programs.

Tom Vaughan has worked at several national parks, including Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, and was one of the founders of the Council for American Indian Interpretation.



Presentation by Dave Foreman, The Rewilding Institute

7:00–8:30 p.m. Global Resource Center, WNMU. Fee: $10 suggested donation at the door.

The Gila Headwaters Wilderness and Wild Rivers Landscape in the Gila and Apache National Forests and adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in New Mexico and Arizona is a world-class wildland and a key link in the Alaska to Central America Spine of the Continent Wildway, but it is threatened by shortsighted development interests once again.

In this talk, Dave Foreman, who fi rst began working on protection of the Gila 45 years ago, explains the wonderful ecological diversity of the Gila Headwaters as a melding of the Nearctic and Neotropical biomes of the Western Hemisphere, the blending of western and eastern ecosystems, and how it is the key wilderness and wild river complex between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Central America.

He also will give the linked history of protection and threats to this great Wilderness and Wild Rivers landscape since Aldo Leopold fi rst proposed protection of it in 1922, and call wildlovers to action to defend it from the latest threat of a boondoggle water diversion from the Gila River where it leaves the Gila Wilderness. Only by permanently protecting the Gila and its tributaries under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act can we ensure that development threats to the river will be ended.

Dave Foreman has worked as a wilderness conservationist since 1971 with a wide variety of groups including the Gila Wilderness Committee, Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, Earth First!, Wildlands Project, Sierra Club, Rewilding Institute, and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. He is the author of many books, including Rewilding North America and The Great Conservation Divide. He lives in his hometown of Albuquerque.