Rivers and Ruins

Around the Gila National Wilderness, New Mexico - August 2006


Quiet night in Silver City
Founded as a silver mining boom camp in the 1870s, Silver City was once a wild frontier town of saloons, gambling halls and brothels. Billy the Kid grew up in this area. Today the town is a mix of retirees, ranchers, copper miners, and outdoor enthusiasts. The once wild historic downtown is a bit quieter these days.



Hearst Church
The discovery of gold at Bear Creek in the 1860s led to the founding of Pinos Altos north of Silver City. A semi 'ghost town' with a handful of residents, the town still has a number of impressive historic buildings. This church was built by mine developer George Hearst (seen HBO's Deadwood?) in 1898.



Climb into the Past
The Gila Wilderness was created in 1924 as the country's first designated wilderness area. In the very heart of it (at the end of a long 2 hour drive from Silver City) sits the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument where you can climb up into a spectacular prehistoric cliff dwelling. Caution: slippery when wet and raining.



Cave Condo
The Mogollon people lived in this extensive cliff dwelling from 1000 to 1300AD and - like the other Ancestral Puebloan people - abandoned it for reasons unknown prior to the arrival of the Europeans.



Living Space
The stone ruins are spread across three large connected caves in a cliff face. You are able to move from one cave to the next without going outside, providing a huge living area that included housing, storage, ceremonial rooms and small plazas - all under one big roof. A lightening storm rolled over while I was here and the sound of thunder echoing in the caves was incredible.



Living Space
The stone ruins are spread across three large connected caves in a cliff face. You are able to move from one cave to the next without going outside, providing a huge living area that included housing, storage, ceremonial rooms and small plazas - all under one big roof. A lightening storm rolled over while I was here and the sound of thunder echoing in the caves was incredible.



Waylaid and Murdered
I hiked up the west fork of the Gila River to find the grave of a cowboy killed during a ranching feud. The small tombstone reads 'William Grudging - Waylaid and Murdered by Tom Wood - Oct 8, 1883'. Mexican timber wolves have recently been reintroduced to the wilderness and on the way back, I noticed the tracks of a single wolf overlapping the tracks that I had left on my way in 30 minutes earlier.



Fast Water
From Silver City, I headed up the western edge of the wilderness to the tiny hamlet of Glenwood and nearby Whitewater Canyon. The canyon is jumbled with rocks and boulders, causing the stream to flow through a number of small 'caves' and numerous short waterfalls. In retrospect, it was perhaps not the best place to be during a summer monsoon storm.



The Catwalk
In the 1890s, miners built a pipeline up Whitewater Canyon to supply water for their ore processing mills near Glenwood. The pipeline was suspended over the canyon floor with steel beams and cables and a metal walkway - the catwalk - was built for access and repairs. The walkway was restored by the CCC in the 1930s and upgraded by the Forest Service in the 1970s.



Night walk on the Catwalk
Later that evening, I decided to go back up the catwalk in the dark of night to take timed exposures of the canyon. In the darkness, the stream bed was cloaked in black making it feel like I was walking over a bottomless abyss while lightening lit up the overcast sky. In this shot, I ran along the catwalk toward the camera while wearing a halogen headlamp - the slow exposure caught the bright headlamp while leaving me 'invisible'.



Main Street Mogollon
Located in a narrow canyon, the old mining camp of Mogollon is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the southwest. Several thousand people lived here during the boom years from the 1870s to the 1920s. Today there are only 15 year-round residents but numerous surviving historic buildings.



The Show is Over
One of Mogollon's better preserved buildings is the old theater which originally featured live shows and later movies. The small room over the front porch is the projector room - many from that era were metal lined in case the projector caught on fire.



Mogollon Cemetery
Mogollon also has one of the best historic cemeteries in the southwest with more than four dozen identifiable headstones or markers - many outlined with little fences. Some plots have fared better than others.



Between a Rock and a Hard Spot
Although James Cooney discovered one of the richest mines in the area, he did not get to enjoy it for long before being killed by Apaches. His fellow miners blasted a tomb for him insided this boulder along Alma Creek. Cooney got the last laugh as his tomb has long out-lasted the nearby mining camp of Alma, of which virtually nothing remains.



Gone So Soon
The only real surviving evidence of the once booming mining camp of Alma is the pretty little town cemetary on a hill top near the mouth of the canyon. As with many historic cemeteries, children's graves are quite common as sickness, poor nutrition, and lack of medical facilities took their toll. Sometimes you can tell when a particularly bad winter or epidemic struck a community by the spike in graves over a short period - often several from a single family.



Copyright
DesertMarmot
2008
Comments: Name or email(optional):

Warning: mysqli::mysqli(): (HY000/1045): Access denied for user 'deser26_dmuser'@'localhost' (using password: YES) in /home/deser26/public_html/includes/dm_db_lib.inc on line 11

Warning: mysqli_query() expects parameter 1 to be mysqli, string given in /home/deser26/public_html/includes/dm_db_lib.inc on line 80

Warning: mysqli_close() expects parameter 1 to be mysqli, string given in /home/deser26/public_html/includes/dm_db_lib.inc on line 90