Field Trips

The 13th Annual Gila River Festival offers a range of field trips that foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River. 

On-line registration for field trips opens July 1, 2017. 

 
 
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Gila Lower Box: A Place of Gathering with Alex Mares

Thursday, September 21, 7 am - 3 pm; Participant Limit: 10; Fee: $22; Difficulty: TBD

Alex Mares, an archaeologist of Diné ancestry, will lead a field trip to an ancient petroglyph site to discuss the history and philosophy of the Native Americans who created these iconic artworks. Full description forthcoming.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 6:45 am, carpool to field trip destination, and return to Silver city by 3:00 pm. Travel time: approximately 1 hour each way.

 
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Using Weeds as a Resource with Monica Rude

Thursday, September 21, 7:30 am - 12 pm; Participant Limit: 15; Fee: $18; Difficulty: moderate

Reconsider weeds for their wild food, medicine, garden & ecological benefits! Whether in your backyard, garden or along the trail, learn how to safely identify, collect & prepare plants previously considered invasive, noxious & useless,  such  as thistles, goatheads, dandelion, Siberian elm, tumbleweed, nettles, purslane & more. Recipes included. Field trip destination to be decided just before the festival, depending on the best weedy spot.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:15 am, carpool to field trip destination, and return to Silver City by noon. Travel time: approximately 45 minutes each way.

 
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Mesquite Mission with the Mesquitos

Thursday, September 21, 8 am - 12 pm; Participant limit: 25; Fee: $18; Difficulty: Moderate

Meet the Mesquitos and explore the 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.The first step in this adventure is finding the best trees.

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. Be prepared for an adventure!

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:45 am, carpool to field trip destination, and return to Silver City by noon. Travel time: Approximately 45 minutes each way

 

Butterflies of the Gila with Ron Parry

Thursday, September 21, 1:15 pm - 5:00 pm; Participant limit: 15; Fee: $18; Difficulty: Moderate

The anthropologist Loren Eiseley once wrote: “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  The truth of this statement is easily verified by walking along the streams and rivers of the Gila bioregion with an attentive mind.  The water in these areas nourishes a remarkable degree of biodiversity that includes many beautiful and interesting butterflies.  This field trip will provide an introduction to some of these butterflies, as we explore one of the local riparian areas.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 1:00 pm, and return to Silver City by 5:00 pm. Travel time: 30-45 minutes each way.

 
Photo: Mike Fugagli

Photo: Mike Fugagli

Birding at the Bridge with Mike Fugagli

Friday, September 22; 8 am - 12 pm; Participant Limit: 12; Fee: $18; Difficulty: challenging, with river crossings

Join ornithologist and naturalist Mike Fugagli for a field trip to the Iron Bridge  on the Gila River, a riparian landscape in recovery. You’ll learn about general riparian ecology as well as birds. More than 200 species of birds have been documented along the Gila River, including the imperiled southwest willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo. While you will not encounter 200 species of birds on this field trip, you may see some interesting migrants passing through, as well as year-round residents. On this field trip, you’ll encounter sand, cobble, and uneven terrain. There will be a few shallow river crossings, so please wear river shoes or shoes that can get wet. Bring a hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, and binoculars. Hiking poles are a great way to help with balance when crossing the river.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:45 am, carpool to the Gila River, and return to Silver City by noon. Travel time: approximately 45 minutes each way. 

 
Photo: SilverCityTourism.org

Photo: SilverCityTourism.org

Food Plants: Past, Present & Future with Dr. Richard Felger

Friday, September 22, 8:15 am - 12 pm; Participant Limit: 20; Fee: $18; Difficulty: moderate

Botanist Richard Felger invites you to experience food plants enjoyed for millennia. Some for today and some for tomorrow, like Apache redgrass, are major crops for the high country west. High protein, no-till, low water. Apache elders say this one is the best tasting and easiest to harvest. On this field trip, Felger will show participants a variety of native trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses that sustained Native Americans and will provide for future agriculture. Please bring water, snacks, hat, sunscreen, and sturdy walking shoes.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 8:00 am, carpool to Cherry Creek Campground, and return to Silver City by noon. Travel time: approximately 30 minutes each way. 

 
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Mimbres Culture Heritage Site Archaeological Tour with Marilyn Markel

Friday, September 22, 8:45 am - 12:15 pm; Participant Limit: 20; Fee: $18; Difficulty: easy

Archaeologist Marilyn Markel has led dozens of tours to the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site in the Mimbres Valley.  She will begin this tour with a talk inside the newly renovated Visitors Center, and then lead you through the Mattocks ruin. Along the way, Marilyn will talk about its inhabitants, their food sources, their distinctive pottery, and the theories on why they abandoned their lovely home on the Mimbres River.

 Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 8:30 am, carpool to the Mattocks site, and return to Silver City by 12:15 pm. Travel time: 45 minutes each way.    

 
Photo: Mark Watson

Photo: Mark Watson

The Gila Flyway: Birding Along the Gila River with Brian Dolton

Saturday, September 23, 8 am - 12 pm; Participant Limit: 12; Fee: $18; Difficulty: Moderate

The Gila Bird Area is named well, with at least 200 bird species on record. There are a variety of habitats from hillside scrub to riparian forest which support a wide range of residents, migrants, and visitors. Local birder and former Southwest New Mexico Audubon field trip leader Brian Dolton will lead us along the old road beside the river from Pancho Canyon, listening as much as looking for the varied bird life that relies upon the Gila.

Please note that the access to Pancho Canyon is sandy and 4WD vehicles are recommended; also, parking is limited so we will carpool where possible. Please bring hat, good walking shoes, water, snacks and binoculars. The walking is mostly level but the trail can be overgrown and muddy in places depending on the rains. Total distance should be no more than 2.5 miles at an easy pace.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:45 am, carpool to the Gila River, and return to Silver City by noon. Travel time: approximately 45 minutes each way.

 
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Gila River Kayaking with Far Flung Adventures

Saturday, September 23, 9 am - 2 pm; Participant Limit: 15; Fee: $85; Difficulty: Difficult

The Gila might be missing from an inventory of the world’s longest rivers, but it’s at the top of the list when it comes to rivers with heart—BIG heart. Steve Harris and Todd Schulke are two of the many river runners who drop everything to float the Gila when the water is up. To merge with the beating heart of a live river, in a region where most rivers are tamed and constrained—well, that’s what it’s all about.

Unlike many Southwestern rivers, the pastoral Cliff -Gila Valley still supports healthy riparian areas, and is an easy and lovely 1.5- to 2-mile float. Join Steve and Todd for a relaxing and informative trip down the Gila. Far Flung Adventures will provide one-person inflatable kayaks, paddles, helmets and life jackets.

NOTE: Although extensive river experience is not necessary, please be realistic about your physical condition and make sure you’re capable of performing several short carries. To prevent injuries, the Gila River Festival reserves the right to limit this excursion to individuals in good physical condition.

We will contact participants with information on where to meet. If there is not enough water to float the Gila River, registration fees will be refunded in full.

 
Photo: Mark Watson

Photo: Mark Watson

Downtown Birds with Karen Beckenbach & Patricia Taber

Saturday, September 23, 8:15 am - 11:00 am; Participant Limit: 8; Fee: $18; Difficulty: moderate

San Vicente Creek flows right through downtown Silver City, where it’s called the Big Ditch. A surprising number of birds live along this perennial creek. Expert birders Karen Beckenbach and Patricia Taber lead this field trip on a trail along the creek, where you can expect to see fall migrants as well as birds that live here year-round.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 8:00 am, and drive to the San Vicente Creek Trailhead just a few minutes away. Return to the Visitors Center by 11 am. Travel time: 5 minutes each way.

 
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The One that Got Away: Fly Fishing Field Trip

Sunday, September 24, 8:30 am - 3 pm; Participant Limit: 12 (including kids) Fee: $22 for adults/$12 kids (12 and under)

Join Jeff Arterburn and other experienced fishing guides from Trout Unlimited and the Mesilla Valley Fly Fishers for an outing to Lake Roberts and nearby Sapillo Creek. At Lake Roberts, you will learn the rudiments of fishing dry flies, wet flies, nymphs and streamers, the basic knots, and the first-step mechanics of casting a fly. Then head just down the road to practice your new skills on a small stream, Sapillo Creek. The where-to-go and how-to of Gila area game fish (various trout, smallmouth bass, carp etc.) will also be reviewed.  

Children are welcome on this field trip, and must be registered and accompanied by an adult.

Please bring: Your fly fishing gear (but if you don't have any we'll rig you up), hat, sunscreen, wading shoes (we'll be crossing the creek), snacks, lunch, and plenty of drinking water. 

Please note: Fishing license required. You can purchase one online at https://onlinesales.wildlife.state.nm.us.  All NM Dept. of Game & Fish rules and regulations apply.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 8:15 am, carpool to Lake Roberts, and return to Silver City by 3:00 pm. Travel time: approximately one hour each way. 

 

Wild Foods and Medicines with Doug Simons

Sunday, September 24, 8 am - 12pm; Participant Limit: 15; Fee: $18; Difficulty: moderate

This field trip is about learning to see and listen. Plant person Doug Simons gives an introduction to plant identification so that participants can become more familiar with native food species. He’ll talk about how various trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses are used as foods and medicines, and tell stories about building relationships with the plants that surround us.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:45 am, and carpool to the Gila River. Return to the Visitors Center by noon. Travel time: about 45 minutes each way.

 
Photo: User:FA2010 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: User:FA2010 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gathering the Gila from Ancient Times to Today with Karen Schollmeyer & Allen Denoyer

Sunday, September 24, 8:00 am - 12 pm; Participant Limit: 30; Fee: $18; Difficulty: moderate

Join archaeologists Karen Schollmeyer and Allen Denoyer for a tour of the Gila River Farm archaeological site and a discussion of archaeology on the Upper Gila, including how people have used its resources for millennia.  Our local archaeological record shows how hunters and farmers have responded to changes in the river and its resources over time, and sometimes caused changes in local plant and animal communities. Karen will discuss how the unique archaeology of the Upper Gila reveals ancient strategies for handling environmental and social changes.  Allen will demonstrate flintknapping techniques for creating points and other tools out of local Mule Creek obsidian, an important tool stone whose movement along trade networks across the Southwest reveals important information about social connections among ancient communities.  We will also have replica tools for participants to try, including atlatls (a projectile weapon) and other tools Upper Gila residents used in ancient times.  Please wear comfortable closed-toed shoes and bring water and sun protection.

Difficulty: ¼ mile walk on uneven ground in full sun.  Bathrooms and shade are available nearby. Please bring hat, water, sunscreen, and sturdy walking shoes.

Meet at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center at 7:45 am, and carpool to The Nature Conservancy’s Gila River Farm in Cliff, NM. Return to the Visitors Center by 12 pm. Travel time: about 45 minutes each way.