Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is surrounded by the Gila National Forest and lies at the edge of the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first designated wilderness area. It was well worth the long winding switchbacking and beautiful drive from Silver City to learn about the history of the Cliff Dwellings. It was a cool, cloudy and windless day. I followed the trail from the mouth of Cliff Dweller Canyon up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings following a stream, up the steep, rocky slope along the cliff side and into three of the six caves. The dwellings were once home to Tularosa Mogollon families.
For thousands of years, groups of nomadic people used the caves of the Gila River as temporary shelter. In the late 1200’s, people of the Mogollon Culture decided it would be a good place to call home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for about twenty years. Then the Mogollon moved on, leaving the walls for us as a glimpse into the past. The cliff dwellers had departed their homes and abandoned their fields by about 1300. Dire need may have sent the families elsewhere—or maybe they were ready for a new location and embarked on an adventure seeking their next place to call home. – A bit like me and my Airstream!