Announcing the 14th Annual Gila River Festival September 20 - 23, 2018

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2018

For more information contact: Allyson Siwik: 575-590-7619;

Gila Conservation Coalition; 


Announcing the 14th Annual Gila River Festival

Celebrating 50 Years of Wild and Scenic Rivers

September 20 - 23, 2018, Silver City, New Mexico


The 14th Annual Gila River Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the United States. Presented by the Gila Conservation Coalition, the four-day festival will feature dynamic presentations and hands-on activities designed to foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River, New Mexico’s last wild river and its watershed, including river outings, expert-led hikes and field trips, presentations, and much more.

Rivers run through us – our hearts, our lives, our nation’s history. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. As our nation matures, we have come to recognize the value of rivers and our responsibility to protect them. Although 12,000 river miles are now protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, this represents less than one quarter of one percent of total river miles in the US. At the 14th annual Gila River Festival we will celebrate this momentous legislation by exploring its roots, surveying the effects it has had, and pondering the future of the American river system as a whole.

The Festival draws over 2,000 people annually and has grown in popularity every year since its inception in 2005.

“The Gila River Festival is a powerful way to bring together both our local community and the greater conservation community, to engage and educate people on the importance of the Gila River. We’ve got an exciting lineup of guest speakers and field trips. There is something fun and interesting for everyone,” says festival coordinator Donna Stevens.

US Senator Tom Udall has been invited to give the Gila River Festival keynote address on Saturday, September 22. He is uniquely qualified to speak about the historic Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation, as his father Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, was instrumental in its passage. The evening event will be held at the Murray Hotel ballroom, and will also include music by Las Cruces’ Caliente Band and wines from La Esperanza Vineyard and Winery.

Tim Palmer, author of Wild and Scenic River: An American Legacy, will talk about America’s wild and scenic rivers and show his stunning photographs of its protected waterways. Writer and Gila National Forest fire lookout Philip Connors will give a presentation on Thursday, September 20 on the history of the Gila as the nation’s first wilderness river, which is currently under consideration for Wild and Scenic status, and read excerpts from his forthcoming book A Song For the River. Sunday morning’s local foods brunch at The Commons (aka the Volunteer Center) will feature Melissa Sevigny, author of Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest. She will discuss her use of the fictitious Buenaventura River, included on maps for decades in the 1800s, as a metaphor for the Western United States as the eternal water frontier.

A panel discussion on using film and digital media for conservation and social change features Navajo filmmaker Tony Estrada and Sinjin Eberle of the national nonprofit American Rivers. They will introduce and show a few short documentaries, including films on Wild and Scenic Rivers and the water protectors of Standing Rock. A discussion will follow. Steve Harris, river runner and director of the nonprofit Rio Grande Restoration, will present the history of the Rio Grande and how it came to be included in the original group of rivers designated as Wild and Scenic. Water law attorney and director of the University of New Mexico’s Utton Transboundary Resources Center, Adrian Oglesby, will present a layperson’s primer on New Mexico’s convoluted, complex, and outdated water laws, and discuss how the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act can be used to protect our rivers.

Popular events scheduled again this year will be the Gila River kayak trip, the Monsoon Puppet Theater puppet parade, and the Gila River Extravaganza, a street fair featuring music, performers, poetry and community art projects, which last year drew a crowd of over 500.

Thank you to our major sponsors: New Mexico Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, McCune Charitable Foundation, and the Center for Biological Diversity, and funding from the Town of Silver City Lodger’s Tax. To donate or become a sponsor please visit:

For more details and registration, visit our website at: or call us at 575-538-8078.

On-line registration begins July 1.

Like us on Facebook at, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @gilariverfest






Allyson Siwik