Located in southwest New Mexico nature provides plentiful variety in the Gila National Forest. Part of it is the Gila Wilderness, which is Americaīs first and largest designated wilderness. It is a brilliant representative of pristine mountains, forests, range land and protected desert and it contains more publicly owned land than any other national forest outside the state of Alaska. The United States Congress designated the Gila Wilderness in 1964 and it now contains over 3,300,000 acres and is managed by U.S. Forest Service making it the sixth largest National Forest in the continental United States. It is one of the continentīs most pristine and rugged wild areas known today. Elevations range from desert and 4500 feet, to alpine at 10,000 feet. The Gila Riverīs immense watershed system creates valleys, mesas and canyons only imagined in dreams.
Apache People were created here and have inhabited these sacred mountains, valleys, and canyons throughout the span of time. The Ndee (Chiheīne, Chokoneīne, Bidaīnku, Ndenai), known as the Chiricahua Apache People predate all other cultures present in the area. The ancient Pueblos, referred to as the Mogollon, Anasazi and Mimbres cultures, attempted to settle this region, unsuccessfully. They were very astute architects and builders and so they left their imprint, then passed on, probably around 1300 A.D. In the heart of the Gila National Forest, a one-mile loop up a shady canyon leads you, the modern-day visitor, up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Here, you will gaze and examine a forty-two room collection of homes which the Mogollon people constructed in five spacious sandstone caves.
Also talented pottery makers, the Mogollon apparently shared this art with the Mimbres people, who lived in the fertile river valleys below their cliff dwelling neighbors. The Mimbreno or WILLOW PEOPLE left their own legacy here and can still be seen in the remarkable black-on-white ceramic pottery recovered from Mimbres ruins.
By the time the first Spaniard set foot in southwest New Mexico, the Mogollons and Mimbrenos had vanished. Still, the Apaches inhabited the area and called it home. Their fierce defense and nomadic lifestyle allowed this region to flourish and exist in harmony for countless generations in itīs purest essence. In more recent history, well known Apache band leaders, war leaders, and warriors like Cochise, Mangas Coloradas, Nana, Loco, Victorio, Naiche, Chihuahua, Geronimo, Porico and Lozen joined forces to drive all intruders from these sacred grounds. The Apaches retreated to a remote stronghold in the rugged forests and mountains of the Gila Wilderness where the U.S. Army chased them for years.
Traveling through “Dzil” (the mountains of the Gila region) offers opportunities to view ancient homesites and to discuss living conditions and survival philosophies of these ancient builders as well as the true inhabitants and inheritors of this country, the Apache People.
The wildlife present gives visitors a glimpse into an ecosystem desired by your soul. Soaring eagles, hawks, heron and kingfishers haunting the sky while deer, elk, antelope, black bear, lynx, cougar, bighorn sheep, wolf, coyote and Javelina roam the shadows of the forests, meadows, and canyons.
Rolling hills leading to high mesas and deep canyons, distinguish the eastern portions of the Gila Wilderness as do pinion and juniper woodland as well as a few grassland areas. This completely unspoiled landscape is an outdoor loverīs refuge with its deep canyons featuring desert agave vegetation, hot springs, 400 miles of fishing streams.
Upper slopes of the Gila contain super thick forests of spruce and fir. In 1924, Congress authorized the U.S. Forest Service to establish the wilderness, due to the persistent lobbying efforts of Aldo Leopold, a former U.S. Forest Service employee who devoted most of his adult life to preserving our countryīs untamed forests for future generations to savor.
You can reach the Gila Wilderness by taking State Highway 90 from Lordsburg, New Mexico (Interstate 10) - through the historic mining towns of Silver City and continuing north into the national forest itself.
The Gila Wilderness is one of the few places left in the United States where one can still serve witness to untouched nature... On a typical day in the Gila Wilderness, you might very well find a herd of pronghorn grazing on the rich grassland ... Observe a desert tortoise going about his business the way he has for millions of years ... Freezing in your tracks while javelina scurry along a migration trail ... Feeling the natural soothing heat of a hot spring flowing into the river ...
Itīs all here in the Gila Wilderness ...
"This is Apache land, this has always been Apache land." - Geronimo, an Apache legend
“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” - Aldo Leopold
WolfHorse Outfitters is APPROVED and PERMITTED to guide visitors in the Gila National Forest